More barriers to peace in North now than before Good Friday accord, say bishops

Catholic body warns of deprivation and suicide threat among young people 15 years after deal

The then Northern secretary Mo Mowlam entering talks prior to the Belfast Agreement at Dublin Castle in February 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The then Northern secretary Mo Mowlam entering talks prior to the Belfast Agreement at Dublin Castle in February 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh


The Catholic bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace has said there are “more peace walls in Northern Ireland now than existed in 1998” despite the progress achieved by the peace process.

In a statement marking the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, concluded in Belfast on April 10th, 1998, the council said: “those communities worst affected by the violence continue to experience the highest levels of socioeconomic deprivation, unemployment, antisocial behaviour, drug abuse and suicide among young people, in addition to the ongoing threat of paramilitary violence”.

It also said this situation was “mirrored in the most deprived communities in the Republic, where the threat of violence and a lack of hope for the future are part of the daily reality of too many young people”.

Noting that April 11th of this year also marked the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris , they said both anniversaries “underline the crucial role of human rights in ending violent conflict”.

Only long-term solutions “founded on the values and approaches outlined in Pacem in Terris – dialogue, respect for human dignity, promotion of human rights and acceptance of our corresponding duties – can bring hope to those people in Ireland and throughout the world who are suffering as a result of violent conflict”, it said.

Ireland had “rightly achieved the reputation of global leadership in the field of peace-building “as a result of the peace process and the contribution of Irish troops to peacekeeping missions throughout the world”, it said.

Ireland too had “the potential to show leadership once again through our response to the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which entered into force on 5th May 2013”. But this State, it noted, had yet to ratify that protocol.

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