The National Archives, in partnership with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, will today present ‘On The Record: Reflections on The Belfast Agreement (Good Friday Agreement)’ – a panel discussion to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
The event takes place on Monday 3 April, from 2-4.30pm at PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, BT3 9HQ; a panel of speakers will offer a range of perspectives on official state records recently released by the National Archives and PRONI relating to the Multi-Party Agreement and the British-Irish Agreement.
Miriam O’ Callaghan (current affairs presenter and broadcaster, RTÉ) will MC and Chair the event. At the start of the day a keynote presentation will be delivered by Glenn Patterson (writer and Director, Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University Belfast) who will speak about post-agreement Northern Ireland from a cultural perspective. The panel includes Professor Marie Coleman (historian, QUB), David Donoghue (former diplomat and writer), Amanda Dunsmore (artist), and Malachi O’Doherty (writer).
Following individual presentations, the discussion will be opened to the floor (including an online audience) for a Q&A session moderated by Miriam O’Callaghan.
Panel members have been invited to consider a selection of state records held in the archives – released under the 20-year rule – relating to the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement and to use these documents to reflect upon the events as they unfolded leading up to and including signing of the agreement. The panel will also consider how the records speak to the significance of this moment in our shared history. The panel will bring different perspectives to bear on the peace process and the agreement itself; as historian, diplomat, journalist and artist, and will speak to the importance of the public record in preserving our collective memory.
Speaking in advance of the event, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD said:
“As Minister with responsibility for the National Archives, the release of records relating to the Good Friday Agreement under the National Archives (Amendment) Act (2018) for the first time in 2022, marked a significant moment in our shared understanding of the peace process and the years leading up to and including the signing of the agreement.
“We all recognise the rich benefits that derived for the people of Northern Ireland as well as the enhanced North South Co-operation through the many North South Bodies established under the North South Ministerial Council in areas such as tourism, arts and culture, language, education etc.
“Joint events such as this further demonstrate the positive working relationship North and South between the National Archives and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland”.
Orlaith McBride, Director of the National Archives said:
“The records we released under the 20-year rule relating to the Good Friday Agreement offer an invaluable insight into the politics and people involved in Anglo-Irish affairs. Providing access to these records to an historian, a former diplomat, an artist and a journalist will provide very diverse perspectives on this time in our recent shared history. With the experienced expertise of Miriam O’Callaghan and the timely intervention by Glenn Patterson reflecting on post-agreement Northern Ireland, we hope the afternoon will be both challenging and though-provoking for all who attend”.
The panel discussion is presented as part of a series of events planned throughout 2023 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The original signed Good Friday Agreement will also be on public view from 12th April at the National Archives to mark the 25th anniversary. The public are encouraged to call in to view it.
Marie Coleman is Professor of Twentieth Century Irish History and Head of History at QUB. She has advised a number of public bodies on historical commemorations and in 2020-21 was a member of the Northern Ireland Office’s Centenary Historical Advisory Panel. Among her extensive media commentary she recently covered the release of the 1997-98 state papers from PRONI and the NAI for a number of media outlets including BBC, UTV and The Irish Times.
David Donoghue spent a total of nearly 25 years working on Northern Ireland, Anglo-Irish relations and the peace process. This included several periods in the Department’s Anglo-Irish Division, a posting to the Irish Embassy in London and a four-year term (1995-9) as the Irish Joint Secretary at the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast. He was a member of the Irish Government team in the negotiations which delivered the Good Friday Agreement, on which he has published a book (“One Good Day”, September 2022).
Amanda Dunsmore works in art processes that explore representations of societal transformation. Her contextual portraits evolve through long periods of research and the work is often presented as a series of extensive socio-political / historical art projects. Amanda Dunsmore has exhibited widely in Ireland and internationally and her artworks can be found in private and public collections. She is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Limerick School of Art and Design, TUS, Ireland.
Malachi O’Doherty has had a long career in journalism and broadcasting. He is the author of several books on Northern Ireland, including Can Ireland Be One? (Merrion 2022) and The Year of Chaos (Atlantic 2021). Dr O’Doherty’s latest book is How To Fix Northern Ireland (Atlantic Books).
Miriam O’Callaghan is an Irish television presenter. She fronts RTÉ’s current affairs show Prime Time, hosts her weekly Sunday with Miriam slot on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday mornings and presents Saturday Night with Miriam chat show every weekend during the summer.
Glenn Patterson is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, of scripts for stage and screen, and a founding patron of Fighting Words Northern Ireland. Glenn has written four works of non-fiction including The Last Irish Question (2021), and ten novels, most recently Where Are We Now? (2020). He is Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University, Belfast.
About the National Archives
The National Archives wasestablished to collect, manage and preserve Ireland’s public record, ensuring their availability as a resource for all. These records relate to the social, cultural, economic and political history of the island of Ireland from the Middle Ages through to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 and into the modern era.
This core function of the National Archives is legislated for in the National Archives Act, 1986, and as amended under the National Archives (Amendment) Act, 2018.
Under the National Archives Act 1986, Government Departments, Offices, the Courts or bodies cited in the schedule to Act have an obligation to transfer records older than 30 years, subject to certain exemptions.
In general, all Departmental records which are more than 30 years old must be transferred to the National Archives Act, 1986. Those records deemed appropriate by the Minister and relevant government minister, which are more than 20 years old, under the provisions of the National Archives (Amendment) Act, 2018 will also be transferred – Anglo Irish Records. Particular records may be retained by Departments and/or be withheld from public inspection.