By Claudia Savage, PA
A lack of decision making by the devolved government in Northern Ireland is “failing future generations”, the president of Queen’s University’s students’ union said.
Emma Murphy was speaking at the opening of the Agreement 25 conference, a three-day event where politicians will discuss the creation and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in the month of its 25th anniversary, at the institution.
“The Good Friday Agreement required difficult conversations and brave leadership and that is exactly what is needed again,” she said on Monday morning.
“Without a functioning government, the lack of decision making is failing future generations instead of building upon the developments that Northern Ireland has made.
“Let this anniversary be the case for action against stagnation and towards progress.”
The Stormont government is not currently functioning due to the DUP’s ongoing protest against post-Brexit trading agreements.
Quoting a line from the sitcom Derry Girls, Ms Murphy said the Troubles were a “ghost story”.
“I, myself, am a peace baby; I’m 23 years old, born and raised in Belfast,” she said.
“For me, so much of the Troubles has been a ghost story.”
Also speaking at the conference’s opening session was Professor Ian Greer, president and vice-chancellor of Queen’s University.
Mr Greer said Northern Ireland politicians’ reaction to the shooting of a prominent police officer was indicative of their commitment to peace.
After John Caldwell was gunned down in February, the five biggest parties at Stormont issued a rare joint statement condemning the attack.
“Events that bring us right back to those painful memories of the past, notably the recent attempt on the life of detective chief inspector John Caldwell,” Mr Greer said.
“The solidarity shown by our Northern Ireland politicians following that event sent an important signal – strong confirmation of their commitment to a peaceful future.”
The theme of the conference’s first day is ‘reflect’.
While it will look back on the Good Friday Agreement’s past, it will also look to its future, Mr Greer said.
“With today’s theme of reflection, we think of the huge milestone reached when the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed,” he said.
“A critically important milestone on the journey but, as many have said, it’s not our final destination.
“So over the next three days we will reflect on the past and renew our commitment – our commitment to collaboration, our commitment to partnership, our commitment to peace.”