Sunak praises the bravery of the leaders of the Good Friday Agreement and urges the return of Stormont

On the 25th anniversary of the peace deal, the Prime Minister hailed the “difficult decisions” made and the “political imagination” shown to end the unrest.

“So we must get on with the business of governance,” he said in a statement Monday, before talks to get Stormont up and running again intensify.

He will host US President Joe Biden in Northern Ireland to mark the event, which is taking place despite the fact that the assembly key to the deal has yet to be settled.

The peace brought by the treaty also remains fragile, as the terror threat was raised amid warnings of possible attacks on police.

Sunak said it is necessary to “recommit to redouble our efforts” to fulfill the promise made when the agreement was signed on April 10, 1998.

Reflecting on the “beginning of a new chapter”, the Prime Minister said the deal “continues to enjoy great international support”, as evidenced by Mr Biden’s visit.

“Looking forward, we will celebrate those who made difficult decisions, accepted compromises and showed leadership, demonstrating courage, perseverance and political imagination,” he said.

“We commemorate those who are no longer with us and the many who lost their lives trying to prevent violence and protect the innocent.

“And we thank you as we reflect on the new generations who have grown and continue to grow in a world where peace and prosperity have prevailed.

“While it is time to reflect on the solid progress we have made together, we must also recommit to redoubling our efforts on the promise made in 1998 and subsequent agreements.”

That vision, he said, is one of “economic opportunity, prosperity and stability.”

“So we need to get on with the business of governance,” continued Mr. Sunak.

“My mission, duty and responsibility as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is to deliver to the people of Northern Ireland.

“We stand ready to work with our partners in the Irish government and local parties to ensure that the institutions are back up and running as soon as possible.

“There is work to be done.”

But Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said no one could set a timetable for when power-sharing would work again.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “Anyone predicting a date when the executive would return to Northern Ireland would be someone who can also sell him a four-leaf clover. No one knows: deadlines are deadly in Northern Ireland terms.”

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said Northern Ireland was at “another crossroads” 25 years after the deal, which he said represented “the best of what our politics can achieve, the triumph of hope over division, of peace over strife and prosperity over conflict”.

“With the political stalemate in Stormont and a period of difficult Anglo-Irish relations, we must use the spirit and trust built by the architects of the Good Friday Agreement to propel us towards another 25 years of peace and prosperity,” he said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has warned of the possibility of dissident republicans launching attacks on police officers in Londonderry on Easter Monday.

MI5 recently raised the terror threat level in Northern Ireland to serious, meaning an attack is very likely.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has insisted that the political vacuum in the nation caused by his party’s refusal to re-enter Stormont is not to blame.

In February last year, the DUP withdrew its support for the power-sharing institutions formed by the Good Friday Agreement in protest against post-Brexit trade deals.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will “intensify” talks with Sunak in the coming weeks to try and get Stormont up and running again.

“We are working to have the institutions up and running in the coming months,” he told RTE’s Esta Semana program.

Sunak will meet Biden on Air Force One when he arrives Tuesday night.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden will visit Northern Ireland this week (Niall Carson/PA)

The president will take part in events on Wednesday, before heading to the Republic of Ireland, where he will visit Dublin, Co Louth and Co Mayo.


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