Lord Jonathan Caine, the British parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, remembers the day the Good Friday Agreement was signed, bringing to an end three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
“Late morning of Good Friday when the agreement was announced, an immense sense of excitement and relief,” Caine, visiting Boston this week, told GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Jeremy Siegel. “The 1998 agreement brought to a close a chapter in history which saw three and a half thousand people or more killed.”
Caine is in Boston to join a group of international leaders gathered at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute to mark 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement.
“In October 1993, I think just under 30 people lost their lives. Shankill bombing, Greysteel massacre,” he said. “And so it just reminds us, I think, how far Northern Ireland has come. And of course, the 1998 agreement has been absolutely pivotal to that. It underpins all the progress that’s really been made in Northern Ireland over the past quarter of a century.”
The U.S., too, is at a pivotal moment, heading into another election year that could involve a former president accused of inciting an insurrection, who exposed deep divides.
Caine said he was reticent to directly comment on U.S. politics or compare Northern Ireland to other parts of the world.
“But I think the key lesson, though, is that, so long as people are prepared to talk and, you know, to negotiate in good faith, then there are very few problems in politics that can’t be overcome,” he said.
Boston has long had deep ties to both the United Kingdom and Ireland, he said.
Caine said his trip is also meant to encourage stronger business ties between Northern Ireland and the Boston area.
“Northern Ireland is a wonderfully excellent place to do business,” he said. “It’s particularly strong in venture capital, in the life sciences, which are also, you know, very strong here in Boston.”
One selling point, he said, is Northern Ireland’s unique position after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union in 2016.
“I think it’s safe to say that what happened in 2016 was a bit of a jolt for many, many people throughout the United Kingdom,” Caine said. “But Northern Ireland was always in a slightly different position to the rest of the U.K. because it’s the only part of the U.K. that shared a land border with the European Union and with the single market.”
Officials had to look at special arrangements for Northern Ireland, he said. They eventually came up with an agreement called the Windsor Framework.
“What that does is give Northern Ireland, uniquely of anywhere, privileged access into the EU single market, at the same time as guaranteeing unfettered access, access into the United Kingdom internal market,” Caine said. “No other region has that advantage, which makes Northern Ireland a great place to look at if you’re wanting to do business with both the rest of the U.K. and into the European Union.”
This is Caine’s seventh time visiting Boston, he said.
“[It’s a] very, very friendly place. Always extremely welcoming, delicious food,” he said. “What more could one want?”
Source : Wgbh