Coming to terms with our interdependencies #GFA20
by Allan LEONARD
10 April 2018
On the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, it is easy to neglect the peace process that preceded it. My reference point is the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, because I learned about the efforts of then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald the year before, from a magazine article that I read in a local library in my rural hometown in Ohio. I knew then that what he was working on was important.
With rapprochement achieved between the Irish and British governments, their mutual involvement would be inevitable in any further peace negotiation. This has been proven true.
Now we feel a long way away from such productive, mutually dependent relations.
Brexit is our new totem. Many like to treat it as the simple, dichotomous choice as worded on the EU referendum ballot paper.
But the messiness of our more local intertwined past, present, and future will persist.
That is what our situation is — messy. Just like our lives, our past, our uncertainty of how to deal with whatever future.
Leaders like FitzGerald had a vision for a better future. Sure, he was a leader of Irish nationalism. But he laid the groundwork for the principle of consent within Ireland, dropping the constitutional irredentist claims to the North.
This was codified in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement — and its successor, the St Andrews Agreement — with many hard negotiated operational structures and legal protections.
Though it’s not the letter of the law that persuades others to move beyond peacemaking to peacebuilding; it’s the spirit of the law.
Trust is in short supply.
There are plenty of reasons for individuals — and the politicians they vote for — not to provide trust. Far from win-win, we now appear to be in an environment of lose-lose.
So what reason hope?
Because we can’t escape ourselves. Thankfully, too many people care about peace and reconciliation.
As was done throughout the darkest days of the Troubles, individuals — some sung, many more unsung — committed acts of humanity and grace. Examples of contemplating the other and just as important, coming to terms with oneself.
These are the stories that need to be told and shared.
They are our way forward.
Image source: Thrown by F. DELVENTHAL CC BY-NC
Originally published at Mr Ulster
I am a peace journalist, because I believe in transforming conflict-driven narratives. I am editor of Shared Future News, which reports on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. I am a co-founder and editor of FactCheckNI, Northern Ireland’s first fact-checking service, which works improve civic discourse. I also support the conflict resolution work of the Forum for Cities in Transition in Belfast.