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Westminster Insider

Inside the room: The Good Friday Agreement 25 years on

Season 9, Ep. 8

In a special anniversary episode 25 years on from the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, host Ailbhe Rea heads home to Belfast to retell the gripping story of how a historic compromise was reached.

Former British PM Tony Blair and former Irish premier Bertie Ahern explain why — and how — they decided to pursue a peace deal when they both came to power in 1997, and recall key moments of drama from inside the negotiating room.

David Kerr, right-hand man to the late David Trimble — the UUP leader who would go on to win the Nobel Peace prize for his role in the talks — describes the splits and crises within unionism at the time, while chief SDLP negotiator Mark Durkan, later to become deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, explains how his boss John Hume’s thinking infused the entire peace process.

Mitchel McLaughlin, spokesperson for Sinn Féin during the negotiations, describes the challenge his party’s leadership faced in trying to take the entire republican movement with them. Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to Blair, explains what it was like to face Sinn Fein across the negotiating table. And Monica McWilliams, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, shares her memories of those tense final days and hours inside Castle Buildings.

Ailbhe also meets Cathy McCann and Betty Speers, two victims of an IRA bomb in 1990 — Cathy was severely injured and Betty’s brother was killed — as they reflect on what the Good Friday Agreement means to them. And Ailbhe ends the episode with Sara Canning, the partner of the late journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by dissident republicans on the 21st anniversary of the agreement, four years ago.

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