It’s been 20 years since the Belfast Agreement paved the way for a relatively peaceful end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The deal was made on Good Friday that year, April 10, 1998, and has become known since as the Good Friday Agreement.
To mark the 20th anniversary, this episode of The Anthill is all about the Good Friday Agreement.
While this anniversary is an opportunity to remember the achievements of 1998, it is also throwing up some difficult questions about the present. The UK is leaving the European Union and will need to come up with a plan for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But the very absence of a border has been an integral element of life after the Good Friday Agreement. What’s more, Northern Ireland hasn’t had a devolved government for over year as a result of a dispute between the unionists and republicans running the administration, making the celebrations a little hollow.
We hear from Feargal Cochrane, professor of international conflict analysis at the University of Kent and panellists David Mitchell, assistant professor of conflict resolution and reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin, and Katy Hayward, reader in sociology at Queen’s University Belfast. (Starts at 5:30)
We find out more about what it’s like to grow up in Northern Ireland today, a place where education is still heavily segregated by faith. We hear from Tony Gallagher and Joanne Hughes from the School of Education at Queen’s University, Belfast, about their research to unite Protestant and Catholic schools through a programme that sees children from both communities coming together for lessons. Then we speak to Laura Taylor a psychologist who’s also based at Queen’s who explains why the role of the family can be so important in helping to keep the peace in divided communities. And we also discover how other countries such as Macedonia and Israel, are learning from Northern Ireland’s approaches to breaking down borders through education. (Starts at 29:25)
And finally, we talked to four academics for an in depth look at what motivated the key political figures involved to get to an agreement in April 1998. From unionist leaders such as David Trimble, to Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and the big hitting trio of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern. Four academics – Margaret O’Callaghan from Queen’s University Belfast, Liam Kennedy from University College Dublin, John Morrison from the University of East London, and Connal Parr from Northumbria University – tell their stories. (Starts at 40:18)