A statement by the Prime Minister has been released to mark the 15th anniversary of the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement.
Today we mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement. I have no doubt that the Agreement was a truly momentous event in the history of Northern Ireland. After decades of division and terrorism, the Agreement heralded a new beginning for relationships within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and across these islands.
At this distance it is easy to forget just how painstaking and lengthy the process was that eventually led to the Agreement. It involved many very difficult compromises and judgements, on all sides. The final product itself was not perfect; its implementation would take many more years to achieve. Yet it represented a massive step forward from what had gone before, a clear manifestation that politics and democracy would triumph over violence. For that, the architects of the Agreement, and those who displayed remarkable political courage in pushing it forward, deserve our thanks.
We should not be shy about trumpeting the achievements of the Belfast Agreement and its successors at St Andrews and Hillsborough. There is still a strong tendency in Northern Ireland to view politics as a zero sum game, in which there are only winners and losers. That is not the case with the Belfast Agreement. I firmly believe that all parts of the community were winners on 10 April 1998.
Fifteen years ago people decided overwhelmingly that the future would only ever be determined by democracy and consent, never by violence. The Belfast Agreement was the platform to build a new, confident, inclusive and modern Northern Ireland, whose best days lie ahead. While we have come a long way, much remains to be done.