The Good Friday Agreement Turns 25

I wrote about Monday, Monday last Friday. It pleases me to write about the Good Friday Agreement this Monday. It stands as a testament to the proposition that seemingly impossible situations can be improved dramatically.

I’ll let The Guardian describe the agreement on its 25th Anniversary.

“The historic Good Friday agreement that ended three decades of the Troubles, brought peace to Northern Ireland and saw the Irish Republican Army and others lay down their arms, is 25 years old this Easter.

It was signed on 10 April 1998, which fell on Good Friday that year, and led to a joint Nobel peace prize for David Trimble and John Hume, leaders of the Ulster Unionist party and the SDLP.

Although the power-sharing government it established is suspended over a Brexit row, it is seen as such a diplomatic achievement that the anniversary is being marked by visits from US president, Joe Biden, former president Bill Clinton, King Charles, former prime minister Sir Tony Blair and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.”

Everyone thought that even a shaky peace in Northern Ireland was impossible. It was part of a decade of hope that started with the collapse of the Iron Curtain and end of the Cold War. It continued with bitter enemies Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat signing a shaky peace agreement at the White House.

Time has exposed the flaws in all of these developments but the mere fact that they occurred would have been unthinkable to a proverbial Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in 1970 and awakened on April 10, 1998.

Brexit exposed the flaws in the Good Friday Agreement, which were exacerbated by the ineptitude and incoherence of the Tory government. But The Troubles are over: the IRA and Protestant militias are no longer armed and planting bombs hither and yon.

The Good Friday Agreement and its aftermath were Tony Blair’s finest hour. He was able to bring the Democratic Union Party  into the peace process. At the time, DUP was led by the profoundly bigoted Protestant pastor Ian Paisley who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into negotiations with Sinn Fein. It’s a pity that Blair damaged his reputation by going along with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but life is full of twisted twists and wrong turns.

The Good Friday Agreement is proof positive that incremental progress is better than no progress at all, especially when violence is involved. There have been breakdowns along the way, but bombs are no longer exploding in Belfast and elsewhere.

On the 20th Anniversary, the great Irish writer Fintan O’Toole explained the importance of the agreement:

“The genius of the agreement was that it took an unanswerable question and changed it. The unanswerable question was: what are you prepared to die for? A United Kingdom or a United Ireland? They were mutually exclusive concepts. The new question was not what are you prepared to die for, but what are you willing to live with.

Also remember this day nearly 30 years ago:

On that September day, Rabin said, “this is hard for me” but you make peace with your enemies, not your allies. That treaty proved to be even shakier than that in Northern Ireland but it got the bitterest of enemies talking. One of history’s great “what ifs” is what would have happened if Rabin had not been murdered. RIP.

3 thoughts on “The Good Friday Agreement Turns 25

  1. The New IRA is still up to nasty shit, and some militias on both sides will exist as criminal gangs. But generally Good Friday was a success. Sadly, Oslo is in tatters and because of right-wing Israeli intransigence another Intifada looms.

    And given the trend of ultra-right-wing (call it what it is: Christian Nationalism/Fascism) I fear we are on our way to our own Troubles. Yeah, I’m the gloomy sort and look to you to bitch slap me when I get too dark, but TN is on the edge. Florida is already there (kidnapping the children of one’s opponents on a flimsy charge). And Landry is coming.

    I tried to be positive after Chicago and WI Supremes but then TN happened and the first blatantly political arrest in Florida. Short of a massive uprising along the lines of France and Israel, I’m keeping my passport current.

    1. “I’m keeping my passport current”

      Always a good idea to keep your passport current.
      If for no other reason, if challenged by a RWNJ for an ID when voting, you can tell them “THIS PROVES I AM A CITIZEN. SHOW YOUR PROOF OR SELF-DEPORT, ALIEN SCUM”

  2. As to Landry, if he’s such a powerful candidate, why are so many GOPers running? They hate him more than they hated Vitter. A reminder that Louisiana has a long history of electing Governors who came out of nowhere from McKeithen to Roemer to Foster to JBE Landry is by no means a shoo in.

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