By student journalist Lili Busby
A rally is to be held in Belfast by Civic Initiative to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement referendum vote. It is set to take place on Saturday, May 20, at Writers Square in the Cathedral Quarter at 12pm.
Organiser Emma DeSouza said: “We looked at the Good Friday Agreement Anniversary celebrations, and we recognised that there was too much of a focus on the politicians, and not so much of a focus on the people that build and sustain peace every single day.
“What we wanted to do was create a space for people to come together, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the referendum vote, and give space for people to demand action on some of the unfinished work of the Agreement.”
“What we have is an absence of conflict and we know that is not enough. We are entitled as a society to ask for a functioning government, to ask for a bill of rights, to ask for a civic forum, to have integrated education, and to have other commitments that were part of the Agreement.”
“I hope that this rally will make people feel empowered, that it will remind people of the agency that they have over the peace process, and the role that people in communities play in building and sustaining peace in Northern Ireland.”
Several campaigners and representatives from different organisations are also set to speak at the event, including Lauren Bond (16), from north Antrim, who is a member of the UK Youth Parliament.
The parliament was formed in 2000. It has 369 members, who are elected to represent the views of young people in their area.
“To play a role in this rally is really important to me,” she said, “I hope to represent the views of young people and also share with adults what it’s like to be a young person growing up in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement.”
Lauren added she feared that some of the Good Friday Agreement anniversary events excluded young people.
“Young people do not need to earn a place at the table, they have one. We need adults to open the door and let us in. We’re constantly told that we’re the future of this Agreement, but we can only be the future of this Agreement if we take part in these conversations.”