‘Leaving the EU represents the biggest threat to peace since the 1994 ceasefire,’ those are the stark words from the people of Northern Ireland as we celebrate 25 years of the historic Good Friday Agreement.
As part of our campaign to keep Northern Ireland’s unique position on the political agenda, we have released a series of films which speaks to the everyday people who did their bit to ensure the Good Friday Agreement succeeded.
The intergenerational film works through more than 60 years of deeply intimate and personal history, covering The Troubles, tourism, integrated education and regional regeneration.
Watch the full film here.
The oldest person interviewed was born 50 years before the Good Friday Agreement, and the youngest – just 17 years old – was born seven years after the signing.
The country’s transformation is underscored as the films work their way down the age groups, with the younger people knowing less and less about ‘The Troubles’, feeling as though they grew up in a relatively peaceful country. It is an overwhelming vindication of the EU’s involvement in the landmark agreement.
The EU was instrumental in maintaining cooperation and conversation between Dublin and London, acting as an honest, independent and encouraging broker. The EU was also critical in ensuring the regeneration and rebuilding of the country. The bloc ploughed billions of pounds of initial investment into Northern Ireland, funding everything from the critical peace process to vital infrastructure and tourist attractions to rural protections. The EU continued to pour nearly £500m into the economy each year.
But it is the people, not the politicians, that this series of films celebrates. The films bring together 13 individuals from across Northern Ireland, all of whom did their bit to heal their communities and move their country forward.
Both the European Union and European Movement were founded to unite the continent after two bloody world wars, with a founding principle to secure and maintain peace as far as possible, for as long as possible and for as many people as possible. The EU has also played a crucial role in securing and promoting peace in other countries.
In one of the films, Grace Flanagan, a 17-year-old college student from Belfast, tells the powerful story of her grandfather, who was shot during The Troubles. Instead of being driven to violence by the incident, he advocated for peace, dedicating his life to progressing his community and healing the generational trauma caused by the war.
Grace's full story is available here.
In another, Michael Lynch, born three years before the landmark agreement, says he doesn’t remember anything but relative peace but issues this stark warning: “People are really worried about things like health, education and the cost of living, but we don’t have a functioning government. We don’t have an Assembly sitting at the minute. And the root cause of the fact that we don’t have an Assembly sitting is the fact that we voted to leave the European Union.”
Michael's full story is available here.
In another emotional clip, a tour guide struggles to finish his sentence as he talks about how much the people of Northern Ireland have overcome.
They are a powerful and moving series of films, directly from the people who lived through one of the most transformational times in modern history, and they demand to be seen as we celebrate this crucial milestone in the country’s journey.
Mike Galsworthy, Chair of the European Movement, said:
“Some moments in history teach us just how far we can go when we work together. What we present here is a series of as yet untold true stories of how the power of cooperation and Europe’s mission, commitment and hope for a peaceful future transformed Northern Ireland, changed the course of history and inspired the world.
“I am so proud to introduce the result of months of tireless work from our team and the generous people of Northern Ireland who welcomed us, opened up to us, invited us into their homes and workplaces, shared their often-painful stories with us and gave us more than 25 hours of their time.
“With these films, we are celebrating 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement, but make no mistake - we are not naïve. The people of Northern Ireland have had to make huge sacrifices and faced enormous challenges. Whilst there have been difficulties on the path so far, and there may be more to come, Brexit now very clearly represents the biggest threat to the country’s peace, stability and progress.
“To this day, Northern Ireland’s voice is still largely shut out of the Brexit debate in the UK. Sure, Northern Ireland may be on the news agenda, but what about its people? And who in Westminster is listening to the problems on the ground in Northern Ireland by talking to its citizens? Stormont is still not sitting; they do not have a functioning government, and the root cause of all of that is the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
“The European Movement is committed to lifting and amplifying the voices of everyday people in Northern Ireland, who have been so unfairly shut out of a debate that impacts them so drastically.
“It’s time to face the facts: Brexit is, right now, damaging the very soul of our country. It threatens the very stability of Northern Ireland and its hard-won peace, and that is an irresponsible and entirely reversible calamity.
“Brexit still risks forever and fundamentally changing the direction and character of our country for the worse, and the only organisation with the courage and commitment to reverse that – to win the Battle for the Soul of our Country – is this movement, it is the European Movement.”