Lyrical Agreement: a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement
Key excerpts from the agreement are read aloud by people of all ages: commissioned by the Institute of Irish Studies for its virtual exhibition Agreement: A People’s Process
The voices are both those who lived through conflict, and those who have known more peaceful times
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. In the referenda that followed, more than 1.4 million people in Ireland and more than 600,000 people in Northern Ireland – a staggering 85 per cent of the combined electorate (71 per cent in Northern Ireland and 91 per cent in Ireland) – endorsed the agreement and its commitment to democratic methods.
The people’s enthusiasm and support infused all levels of society, where civic, community, and political leaders continue to work strenuously to undermine a return to violence. Because of the agreement, it is now commonplace for people to work across the constitutional divide. In so doing, people across the island of Ireland learn from each other in ways that were once thought implausible.
Key to the agreement was the significant de-escalation in violence. Between 1968 and 1998, some 3,600 people were killed and 40,000 injured. In that period, there was an average of 110 killings per year. Last year, there were five. In the same period, shooting incidents have fallen from an average of 1,920 per year to 61 last year. We are now living in a society in which violence has waned, wilted and become uncommon. The agreement has ensured that our society does not create another traumatised generation.
The agreement also created new social spaces. Workplaces and places of relaxation and social engagement are now more commonly shared by those who live in a society of cultural and social choice and not one of artificial and imposed difference. Abour 20 per cent of long-term romantic relationships in Northern Ireland are across the sectarian divide. Research undertaken at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool shows that a younger generation practices the agreement’s call for parity of esteem and sharing in their everyday lives. There remain many problems to be solved but we must weigh those against what has been achieved.
Lyrical Agreement is a unique work that the Institute of Irish Studies commissioned for its virtual exhibition Agreement: A People’s Process. Excerpts from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement are read aloud by people of all ages living in Northern Ireland. The voices are both those who lived through conflict, and those who have known more peaceful times. It features contributors from both sides of the border, as well as those who have come to call Northern Ireland home.
Lyrical Agreement illustrates the need to share and commit to a better future. The film, and all of the virtual exhibition, is free to use. Readers are encouraged to pass it on to others and help them reflect upon the significant and positive changes that we have encountered and – more importantly – upheld and will continue to promote.
View the entire virtual exhibition: liv.ac.uk/peoplesprocess