On the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the Brexit elite are putting my family's peace at risk

My sister and I were bullied as children, beaten up for wearing a Catholic school uniform in a majority Protestant estate. Now her children have friends across the religious divide

Rosie McKenna
in Ballymena
Wednesday 10 April 2019 14:26
Comments
Dominic Raab admits he hasn't read the Good Friday agreement

Today is the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, when politicians from eight different political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as the British and Irish governments, came together to end decades of bloodshed. Upon the signing of those documents, the text of the agreement was sent to every household across the island or Ireland before it was voted on in a referendum in both nations.

Every year, early April is a time for reflection in Northern Ireland, and usually a cause for more than a little celebration. Indeed, as the Good Friday Agreement spoof twitter account tweeted this morning: "Best birth certificate ever."

I was three years old when the Good Friday Agreement was passed, but I have grown up in the shadows of the Troubles. And though I am privileged to have lived in a time of relative peace, no one should be under any illusions about the challenges of my home nation.

Peace is not a destination; it is a journey and a process. The Northern Ireland Peace Process shaped my upbringing, and I’ve seen first hand the massive difference it has made.

Just over a decade ago, my sister and I were bullied as children, beaten up for wearing the Catholic school uniform in a majority Protestant estate. Now my sister’s children have friends across the religious divide. My sister’s partner is a Protestant, too – the possibility of their relationship a result of this process, and their children the children of peace. If they had been born even 10 short years ago, they would have been called "mules" for being from a "mixed" family.

The Good Friday Agreement was the start, not the end, of peace in Northern Ireland. We are still working on it. It is a gift, and one which has to be earned every single day. To watch members of the Brexit elite so blithely throw that gift away – unwittingly, and without a care in the world – is incredibly frustrating.

I’m worried. I am worried that we are about to crash out of the EU with no safeguards on peace process funding, or guarantees on our border; I am worried that the sectarianism and violence which is never far from the surface in Northern Ireland is on the cusp of bubbling over once more.

We know that any form of Brexit threatens a hard border in Ireland, putting our peace at risk. We also know, unfortunately, that most if not all of the decision makers in Westminster do not appear to understand this.

So on this most auspicious of 21st birthdays, I would like to make a wish: give Brexit back to the people of Northern Ireland and let us decide our own future in a Final Say referendum.

Rosie McKenna is a support of For our Future's Sake. She lives in Northern Ireland

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