15 years on from the Belfast Agreement – News Letter article by David Ford

15 years ago the political parties made a momentous decision, which the vast majority of our people then voted for, that should have led to a new Northern Ireland for everyone.

Today in 2013 the values and beliefs behind the agreement remain strong, but many of its key promises remain unfulfilled. It was meant to give us the confidence and the institutions for our society to move on from the old politics of ‘them’ and ‘us’. It should have given us the opportunity to move our community towards a shared future.

However this has not been the case and in recent months we have seen political parties retreat further into their orange and green factions, such as the creation of the Unionist Forum that is designed to look the problems of only one section of the community and the decision by Nationalists to rename a children’s play park after a convicted terrorist.

Despite the Assembly having had six continuous years of operation, we are still to see a genuine and challenging shared future strategy.

If we are to fulfill the promise of the Belfast Agreement we need to see concrete agreement on dealing comprehensively with the past, and with the promotion of shared housing, integrated education and a mutual respect for all cultures. We won’t achieve what we want for Northern Ireland if we don’t tackle this critical issue.

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