This year we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the decades-long Troubles in Northern Ireland that fractured communities along sectarian lines and claimed thousands of lives.
As we mark this historic agreement, I believe it is important that we reflect on the progress that has made in the previous two and a half decades.
The legacy of peace secured by the Good Friday agreement surely establishes it as not only one of the greatest achievements of any previous Labour Government, but perhaps one of the greatest achievements of any British Government during the second half of the 20th century.
Decades of confrontation and division were ended because at its heart, the Good Friday Agreement brought people together and sought to build trust and cooperation between communities. This commitment to dialogue and compromise, and a willingness to listen to the concerns and aspirations of all sides allowed peace and prosperity to win the day.
The keen Parliament watchers among you will know that in conjunction with my role as your MP in Gower, I am also the Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland. In this role I am afforded the privileged opportunity to scrutinise Government policy on Northern Ireland directly from the dispatch box, but it has also allowed me to speak directly with residents about their experiences living through the Troubles.
On visiting Northern Ireland, I’ve met people who well remember the darkest days of the Troubles, as well as the young adults and children who never had to live through them. I’ve spoken to people from both communities, and all walks of life, but the common denominator is that none take peace for granted. That is testament to the hard work and strength of everyone who played a role in securing the agreement. The Troubles may be in the past, but the significance of the Good Friday agreement is still shaping lives today.
We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland to push forwards building that brighter and more hopeful future for all.
I wish to end with a quote from Mo Mowlam’s book. As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time, she played a vital role in securing the agreement. This quote aptly sums up the peace process and is one that we should also apply to our lives today.
“People working together can overcome many obstacles, often within themselves, and by doing so can make the world a better place.”