Ukraine war a reminder not to take peace for granted, says Taoiseach

Micheál Martin says 1998 peace deal ‘marked seismic milestone in lifetime of this island’

The war in Ukraine is a "stark reminder" that we cannot take democracy and peace for granted, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said, in a statement marking the 24th anniversary on Sunday of the Belfast Agreement.

In the statement, Mr Martin said the island of Ireland had been united in revulsion at Russian aggression against Ukraine and "in our support and solidarity for the people of Ukraine".

He stressed that it was incumbent on us all to protect and nurture the Belfast Agreement, which “marked a seismic milestone in the lifetime of this island”.

“It signalled a new beginning underpinned by peace and mutual respect – grounded in the principles of consent, democratic institutions, reconciliation and co-operation,” he said.

"The agreement was the product of many people's work. Of political and civic leaders across all traditions and communities in Northern Ireland together with the two governments [the British and Irish governments], and supported by the US and the EU.

“Through the agreement, we established new, interdependent political institutions – for Northern Ireland, North/South and east/west – and affirmed principles, rights and equal protections for all, and addressed issues of citizenship, identity and constitutional futures.

“It is important that we recognise the progress which has occurred since then.”

The Belfast Agreement was signed on Good Friday, April 10th, 1998, to secure peace in Northern Ireland. It consists of two closely related agreements: the British-Irish Agreement and the Multi-Party Agreement.

It led to the establishment of a system of devolved government in Northern Ireland and the creation of many new institutions, such as the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council.

Threats removed

In his statement, Mr Martin said that since the agreement there was a whole generation that had grown up without the everyday threat of violence, in a society where tolerance, equality and mutual respect were now prioritised over division and conflict.

“ I would like to particularly acknowledge all those who work every day to build trust, develop relationships, and improve the lives of people on all parts of the island in support of the values underpinning the Good Friday Agreement.

“I know also that scars and trauma endure for many who suffered during the Troubles and there is unfinished business in resolving some of the issues and difficulties which remain.”

He added that the Irish Government was fully and deeply committed to working with the British government and all parties and communities in Northern Ireland to promote peace and reconciliation and support the full and effective operation of all the institutions of the Belfast Agreement.

“Through our Shared Island initiative, we are committed to redoubling our efforts to build meaningful connections, co-operation and trust between different communities and political traditions [in Ireland].

“We have set out a broad, positive, inclusive agenda, founded on working through the Good Friday Agreement, towards a shared future for all.

“I firmly believe, that through sustained commitment and shared endeavour, we will realise the transformational potential of the agreement for how we live together on this island,” Mr Martin said.

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