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Good Friday Agreement must feature as a core part of school teaching for future generations – Currie

3rd April 2023 - Emer Currie

The Good Friday Agreement and the events leading to it must be taught in schools, not just in history lessons, but as a living, breathing framework for progress, prosperity and peace across the entire island, according to Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie.

Senator Currie was speaking after a survey found that a quarter of young people in Ireland say they don’t know about key events during the Troubles.

People under 35 were more likely to attribute the majority of killings during the conflict to the British Army as opposed to the IRA, according to the Sunday Times poll.

Senator Currie said: “The results of the Sunday Times survey are startling but not surprising to me as someone who has lived North and South, through peace and violence.

“Particularly in the South, there has always been a desire by many to ‘get on with it’ and not focus on the atrocities of the past. But the past comes up for a reason.

“We can’t and shouldn’t forget the foundations on which the Agreement was built and why, if we want to make the most of that agreement now.

“We can’t forget the legacy of violence that still affects so many. We also have to understand the past if we aren’t going to repeat it.

“And we can’t ignore the disconnect between life North and South – only 3% of students in the North come from the South for instance. How do we build a shared future if we don’t have a shared present?

“The Good Friday Agreement wasn’t just a peace agreement that happened 25 years ago. It is a framework for relationships across two islands. It’s a toolkit for building reconciled societies.

“The Good Friday Agreement has as much to offer young people today as it did then, but they need to be engaged in it. They need to understand it.

“Our focus should rightly be on issues like building strong and shared economies, infrastructure and equal opportunities based on empathy and understanding. And that means knowing about the past, that isn’t our past too.

“History is compulsory at junior cert where Northern Ireland is broadly covered. At senior cycle, not all students take history and they then choose between early modern and late modern history, and not all students will choose to take a module on the Troubles.

“We need more emphasis in schools on the events that led to the Good Friday Agreement, the consensus that was reached on parity of esteem and the principle of consent. And we need them to understand how truly awful the Troubles really were and how we can’t ever go back.

“The information they get should be factual, not based on narratives that attempt to rewrite history.

“Every student in Ireland should know what we agreed in 1998 and why. Not because it’s part of our history but because it’s very much our present, Senator Currie concluded.

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