Monday 23 July 2018

Spirit of Good Friday deal is at the mercy of extremists

The 1998 Belfast Agreement can only be restored by remembering what made it work in the first place, says Eilis O'Hanlon

George Mitchell, Bertie Ahern and Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. They will all meet again this Tuesday to mark 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement. Photo: AP
George Mitchell, Bertie Ahern and Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. They will all meet again this Tuesday to mark 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement. Photo: AP

Eilis O'Hanlon

It's a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes. What happened to the spirit of 1998 that forged the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland? That's what everyone is asking as next week's 20th anniversary of the signing of the historic peace agreement nears.

On Tuesday, dignitaries including Bertie Ahern, former US President Bill Clinton, Senator George Mitchell, and Downing Street negotiator Jonathan Powell, will gather at Queen's University in Belfast to mark the exact date of the signing - April 10.

The anniversary ought to be a moment of celebration for an agreement which has become the blueprint for peace deals around the world, from Sudan to South Africa. Instead the mood is sombre. Stormont is suspended, and unlikely to be revived any time soon. Trust between unionists and nationalists is at its lowest ebb for years. Power sharing has been put into deep freeze.

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