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Remarks by the Tánaiste - Civic Reception for 25th Anniversary of Belfast / Good Friday Agreement

Thank you Chris for the invitation to be here this evening.

25 years ago, the people of this island, both North and South, voted in enormous numbers to endorse the Good Friday Agreement. 

As was recognised then, it was not just an endorsement, it was a command from the people to all political leaders to begin the work of peace.

In April, we rightly honoured some of those at the centre of the negotiations that led to the Agreement. 

But it is essential also that we recognise that the Agreement, and the peace process as a whole, was built on the work of a much, much wider group of leaders. 

It was a collective achievement shared across society.  And it belongs, not to one class or community, but to us all.

Fundamentally, the Agreement was possible because of the tireless work of ordinary people who stepped up to become community leaders.  I mean the people, including many of you in this room, who got up every day and tried to provide a positive focus for their communities, who never stopped trying to bring their neighbours closer, who never stopped trying to engage and lift up our young people. 

Through our Reconciliation Fund, we have been proud to support many of you in that work from the early 1980s until today. 

No history of the peace process or the Agreement could properly be written without those, from all walks of life, who created the safe spaces for politicians to connect; who generated the ideas to change how we looked at supposedly unsolvable problems, and who, above all, built the momentum that pushed politics into peace.

I want to take this opportunity tonight to thank and pay tribute to those leaders – in community and voluntary groups, the youth clubs, the women’s networks, the churches, the schools, the arts, sport, academia and business. 

I want to pay tribute to all of you here, who simply did not accept that tomorrow had to be like yesterday. 

The poets tell us that there comes a day “on which your dream has power”.  The 22nd May 1998 was one such day when our collective dream of peace was made powerful by the votes of millions of citizens of this island, North and South.

The Irish Government continues to be guided by that command of the people.  We are determined to play our part to help politics here work, to build relationships on this island, and to support partnership and friendship across these islands. 

We are raising our ambition on how we can do that through our Shared Island Initiative.  By investing in projects and infrastructure that improve communities, by funding research that will let us plan and work together better and by convening dialogues that are genuinely inclusive and open.  We see civil society as key to that and we are increasing our support to that work on an all island basis.

On this anniversary, our job, today, together, is once again to make sure that the dreams and aspirations of our young people, of all our people, have power. 

Thank you for everything you continue to do to make that a reality. 

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