The years since the Good Friday Agreement have seen a positive transformation in Ireland and in relations between Britain and Ireland. The peace process has resulted in historic power sharing in the north and clear mechanisms for ensuring equality and rights. It has opened the door to the potential for meaningful reconciliation and dealing with the past. All Ireland co-operation has never been stronger.
While immense progress has been made, this process has to continue to move forward in its current phase and set out a new chapter to ensure equality and change are achieved. Those who oppose this, from whatever source, cannot be allowed to block progress.
British and Irish governments have clear responsibilities, alongside the political parties in Ireland to ensure the fulfilment of the Agreement. People of goodwill in Britain also have an essential role to play, to ensure these crucial issues are on the political agenda of current and future governments.
The Agreement enshrines the principle of self-determination, including the provision of a mechanism for constitutional change – a border poll. A British government is signed up to the principle of calling such a vote and honouring its outcome. Economic, social and political trends reinforce an argument that Irish unity is a realistic objective within a meaningful time scale. With opinions on all sides, Sinn Féin has begun a serious discussion on the next phase of the peace process and the prospects for a new Ireland.
The conference on 19 October 2013 in London saw a wide range of speakers, with representatives from across the political spectrum. Key figures in the peace process and in the current political arena joined community and civic society representatives, commentators and campaigners from Ireland and Britain to discuss a number of critical issues. The conference debated why the new phase of the peace process must continue to be driven forward. Speeches from the conference are published here on the website and this vital discussion will continue over the coming year, though articles, debates and future events.