Edward M. Kennedy Institute hosts “25 Years of the
Good Friday Agreement” Conference
Tuesday, September 26, 2023 (Boston, Mass.) – The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate today hosted a conference reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which explored ongoing challenges in consolidating peace and the opportunities for greater economic prosperity in Northern Ireland in the years ahead.
Speakers included former US Special Envoy to Ireland and chair of the Good Friday talks, Senator George Mitchell; Congressman Richard Neal; Special Envoy for Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs Joseph Kennedy III; Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Government of Ireland; Lord Jonathan Caine, Parliamentary Undersecretary for Northern Ireland, United Kingdom Government; representatives from political parties in Northern Ireland; and international business leaders. The conference was hosted in the Edward M. Kennedy Institute’s replica senate chamber.
In his keynote address, the Honorable Joseph Kennedy III, Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, and Edward M. Kennedy Institute Board member said, “We gather today much in the same spirit as 25 years ago after the signing of a Belfast Good Friday Agreement to ask the question, ‘what do the next 25 years hold?’… I am convinced that it is a future – deserved and earned – that uplifts every child, every person, across Northern Ireland and island of Ireland.”
Senator George Mitchell gave a personal reflection on his role in the negotiations as US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, saying, “I believe the greatest heroes were the people of Northern Ireland and their elected officials…they established a peaceful process as their preferred form of governance.”
Senator Mitchell’s remarks were followed by a broader discussion with Minister Darragh O’Brien and Lord Jonathan Caine focusing on the prospects for further progress in Northern Ireland, which was moderated by Professor Meghan O’Sullivan from the Harvard Kennedy School.
“25 years ago, Senator Mitchell chaired the talks which resulted in the historic Good Friday Agreement, an Agreement which transformed relations on the island of Ireland, and between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain,” said Minister Darragh O’Brien. “Today, my Government’s priority is to consolidate the peace, and build upon its potential, work best done in partnership with leaders in London and Belfast. Along the journey to peace, we have always been accompanied by the United States, and that solidarity continues to be important as we work together to ensure the full functioning of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, in particular the devolved institutions in Belfast and the North South Ministerial Council. That’s why it has been so important to share this platform in Boston today with Senator Mitchell, Special Envoy Kennedy and Meghan O’Sullivan, each of whom has left their mark and whose enthusiasm gives us all encouragement into the future.”
“In its 25th anniversary year, the UK Government retains its unshakeable commitment to the historic Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement which has been the bedrock of all that has been achieved in Northern Ireland in the past quarter of a century,” said Lord Jonathan Caine. “As we look forward to the next 25 years, the Government is working tirelessly to restore functioning devolved institutions. Our aim is to build a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger and more united, with the whole community enjoying a genuinely shared future.”
The program included a panel featuring political parties from Northern Ireland who were represented by David Brooks MLA, Democratic Unionist Party; Colum Eastwood MP, Social Democratic and Labour Party; John Finucane MP, Sinn Féin; Andrew Muir MLA, Alliance Party; and Mike Nesbitt MLA, former Leader, Ulster Unionist Party, The panel was moderated by Charles Landow, Senior Research Associate and Manager, Harvard Kennedy School.
International business leaders from North America and Northern Ireland took part in a panel “Opportunity, Prosperity, and Investing in the Future,” moderated by James Brett, President and CEO of The New England Council, which focused on how the historically strong business relationships between the United States and Northern Ireland provides continued opportunities for economic growth and business development between the two countries.
Delivering the event’s closing remarks and turning to those in attendance who were involved in the Agreement, U.S. Congressman Richard Neal, Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Friends of Ireland, said, “To the people who are here today that did those magnificent things, thank you and congratulations from the United States of America.”
The event was co-hosted with the Consulate General of Ireland, Boston; the British Consulate-General, Boston; and the Northern Ireland Bureau. It was primarily supported by the Emigrant Support Programme of the Government of Ireland with additional support from the UK Government and The New England Council.
The event is available for viewing on the Edward M. Kennedy Institute’s YouTube Page: 25 Years of the Good Friday Agreement.
About the Edward M. Kennedy Institute
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities. Learn more at emkinstitute.org.