Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris delivered closing remarks at a joint one-day conference organised by FCDO and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP

Good afternoon everyone, thank you to the FCDO and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs for arranging this afternoon’s conference.

It is an honour to have the opportunity to be with you this afternoon, to mark this historic 25th anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, reflect on the transformation in Northern Ireland since its signing and to look ahead to the coming 25 years.

The signing of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement on 10 April 1998 brought an end to 30 years of armed conflict, securing the peace that Northern Ireland’s people enjoy in their everyday lives today and helping to move towards a more reconciled society.

The peace it has brought is undoubtedly an enormous achievement. But no less remarkable is what has been built upon that peaceful foundation. It has had a transformative effect on Northern Ireland’s economy and enabled the building of a more vibrant society.

The UK Government remains steadfast in its commitment to protecting and upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions. We are sincerely determined to build on the progress we have made this past 25 years.

Of course, this progress was delivered through collaboration, with a common determination to make life better for everyone in Northern Ireland. No one party, government, individual or organisation owned the journey to the Agreement, nor the journey of Northern Ireland since.

Instead, it was the collective endeavour of many, including the Northern Ireland parties, the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition as well as the Irish and US governments, that resulted in the Agreement.

For our part, the UK Government is committed to delivering real progress for the whole community in Northern Ireland, since the Agreement was signed.

I know that the Irish Government is also just as committed to the Agreement as we are. To this day, the partnership and friendship between our countries has been vital in protecting the foundation of peace and prosperity the Agreement brings.

My firm commitment as Secretary of State is to support and champion that precious relationship, through which we have achieved so much with our closest neighbour.

I also wish to acknowledge the contribution that the United States, Finland, South Africa and Canada have made to the Agreement and to supporting disarmament and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

In recent weeks we have proven our commitment to the Agreement through listening to and heeding the concerns among the people of Northern Ireland with the Protocol, replacing it with a radical, legally binding new Windsor Framework. A Framework that restores the delicate balance struck by the Agreement.

And it remains my sincere hope that we will soon see the Strand One institutions established by the Agreement in operation again in its 25th anniversary year, demonstrating the benefits of a local Executive and Assembly and of Northern Ireland’s place within the Union.

It is not just peace that the Agreement has given Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has built upon that peaceful foundation, to deliver increasing prosperity for its people.

Northern Ireland boasts a world-leading screen and film production industry, Game of Thrones, The Northman, that has already contributed over £1 billion to the NI Economy.

The fintech, cyber security and engineering sectors are going from strength-to-strength in the Northern Ireland of today. The Northern Ireland cyber security sector alone employs 2,300 people and contributes £161m per year to the local economy.

It is also a testament to Northern Ireland’s increasing global reach that over one third of cyber security firms in Northern Ireland are headquartered in the US.

However, there remains more to be done to fully deliver on the promise of the Agreement, by providing for a better future for everyone and further spreading and deepening economic prosperity in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s journey towards greater prosperity and reconciliation continues to this day. The 25th anniversary of this remarkable achievement affords us an opportunity to restate our commitment to upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and to building upon its peaceful foundation to create a brighter future for Northern Ireland.

I look forward to working with you all to achieve it in the years to come.

Published 28 March 2023