Green Party leader Steven Agnew calls for return to spirit and approach of 1998

Monday April 9 2018

Green Party Leader Steven Agnew says it is devastating to see what has happened to the Good Friday Agreement in 20 years.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the landmark agreement, the Green Party leader said: “At the age of 18, I was one of those who attended the historic peace concert headlined by U2 and Ash and it is heart-wrenching that the hopeful path we were on has ended up here.

“I am more disappointed than I can say that the hopes of so many people have been betrayed by the two parties who have shown a lack of commitment to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and a lack of commitment to making the institutions work.

“Both the DUP and Sinn Fein have spent the years since that Good Friday chipping away at the foundations of the Agreement and bringing about the collapse of the institutions by means of a series of behind-closed-doors deals which never sought the explicit consent of the people of Northern Ireland.

“The talks that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement were exceptional in their ambition and scope, bringing in a wide range of people who took a brave step to forge a workable agreement.

“It took players such as Women’s Coalition to make an agreement and a peace that worked, yet now the Secretary of State expects a repetitive two-party talks process to work.

“We need to return to that spirit and we need to see that courage again. The Good Friday Agreement was the people’s agreement and we need to return it to the people.

“The Green Party is doing all it can to build consensus, but what we need now is a talks process that involves all parties with an Assembly mandate, with an independent facilitator and chair.

“The UK government cannot be both chair and party to the discussions and was not in this position during the talks that led to the 1998 Agreement.

“We need a Citizens’ Assembly operating in parallel with this talks process, tasked with producing recommendations to review, reform and revitalise the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I have never seen such a level of disillusionment with Northern Ireland politics and the only way to break the deadlock is to come up with new and imaginative approaches, instead of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.”