The war in Ukraine is a “stark reminder” that we cannot take democracy and peace for granted, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said in a statement marking the 24th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement on Sunday.
In the statement, Mr Martin said the island of Ireland was united in revulsion at Russian aggression against Ukraine and “in our support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people”.
He stressed that it is incumbent on all of us to protect and nurture the Belfast Accord, which “marked a seismic milestone in the life of this island”.
“It marked a new beginning underpinned by peace and mutual respect – founded on the principles of consent, democratic institutions, reconciliation and cooperation,” he said.
“The agreement is the result of the work of many people. Political and civic leaders from all traditions and communities in Northern Ireland with both governments [the British and Irish governments]and supported by the US and the EU.
“Through the agreement, we have established new, interdependent political institutions – for Northern Ireland, North/South and East/West – and affirmed equal principles, rights and protections for all, and addressed issues of citizenship, identity and constitutional future.
“It is important that we recognize the progress that has taken place since then.”
The Belfast Agreement was signed on Good Friday April 10, 1998 to secure peace in Northern Ireland. It consists of two closely related agreements: the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Multiparty Agreement.
This led to the establishment of a devolved system of government in Northern Ireland and the creation of many new institutions, such as the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, the North-South Ministerial Council and the Anglo-Irish Council.
In his statement, Mr Martin said that since the agreement, an entire generation had grown up without the daily threat of violence, in a society where tolerance, equality and mutual respect now took priority over division and conflict.
“I want to especially thank everyone who works every day to build trust, develop relationships and improve the lives of people in all parts of the island in support of the values that underpin the Good Friday Agreement.
“I also know that the scars and trauma linger for many who suffered during the Troubles and that there is still unfinished business to address some of the remaining issues and difficulties.”
He added that the Irish Government was fully and deeply committed to working with the UK Government and all parties and communities in Northern Ireland to promote peace and reconciliation and to support the full and effective functioning of all institutions of the Belfast agreement.
“Through our Shared Island initiative, we commit to redouble our efforts to build meaningful connections, cooperation and trust between different communities and political traditions. [in Ireland].
“We have set out a broad, positive and inclusive agenda, based on working through the Good Friday Agreement, towards a shared future for all.
“I firmly believe that through sustained commitment and joint effort, we will realize the transformative potential of the agreement on how we live together on this island,” Mr. Martin said.