HomeUnited KingdomSpeech: Lord Caine's closing remarks at 25 Years On: Global and Local...

Speech: Lord Caine’s closing remarks at 25 Years On: Global and Local Reflections on the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement Conference

First of all, however, I would like to express my thanks to colleagues in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for putting together today’s conference and the Department of Foreign Affairs for arranging this reception so generously hosted by the Ambassador. And also those whose painstaking preparatory work made it possible such as John Major and Albert Reynolds. Political institutions that reflect the three sets of relationships across these islands. It is a great pleasure to be able to be invited to say a few words this evening on behalf of the United Kingdom Government. As we mark 25 years of the Agreement we will rightly acknowledge the contributions of those who displayed great leadership in making it possible. People like Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, David Trimble and John Hume. Your excellency and distinguished guests. And who today is a minister in a Government whose commitment to that Agreement is unwavering. Constitutional issues settled on the basis of consent. Those remain clear objectives of the UK Government. It was, of course, the great George Mitchell who once said that getting an Agreement is around 20 percent of the task. The other 80 percent is implementation. I am, however, hopeful that with the Windsor Framework, so overwhelmingly endorsed by the Commons last Tuesday, we have a basis for moving Northern Ireland forward, for restoring the institutions and building a brighter, more stable future for everyone. I speak as someone who has been a strong supporter of that Agreement ever since that historic day on 10 April 1998 when it was reached. All of this will of course be the focus of much comment and analysis as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement or, as I sometimes call it, the 1998 Agreement. Then there were the contributions from outside such as President Clinton and Senator George Mitchell and from friends and colleagues in other countries too, including Canada, South Africa and Finland. Today, Northern Ireland has been without a functioning Executive and Assembly for over a year, for reasons that we all know. And both today’s conference and tonight’s reception are evidence of our collective determination to work together to achieve them. And, to put it mildly, so it has proved. Thank you. Above all, the priceless prize of a generation who, notwithstanding the ongoing threat from dissidents and continuing paramilitary activities, have only ever known relative peace rather than a place torn apart by violence. Policing and criminal justice are more broadly supported than ever before. The 1998 Agreement was a truly historic landmark in the history of our islands and I am in no doubt that it has been the bedrock of all that has been achieved over the past 25 years. A Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger and more united. Unemployment today is the second lowest of any UK region. Events like today underline the importance of the strong bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland and of our shared endeavours over many years to promote peace, prosperity and stability within Northern Ireland. And we should never be shy or defensive about those achievements. An unwavering commitment to the constitutional principles it enshrines to the political institutions it establishes and to the rights that it guarantees for all.


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