Transcript by the Prime Minister and Taoiseach for Internet broadcast on Northern Ireland, 20/04/00
I want to talk today about a subject on which I've probably spent almost as much time as anything else since I became Prime Minister - the efforts to find a fair and lasting peace for Northern Ireland.
I am also delighted that the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who is sitting with me here in Downing Street, has agreed to join me on this week's webcast.
It is, I suppose, a practical recognition of how closely our two Governments have worked together ever since the peace process started.
Certainly I've worked more closely with the Taoiseach and spent far more time with him than I have with any other Prime Minister as we try to play our part in delivering a peaceful and prosperous future for all the people of Northern Ireland.
Of course, we are not there yet. But, on the second anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, it's important to remember the real progress that has been made.
It's progress which has made a real and practical difference in many different ways already to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland.
Yes, there are still unacceptable acts of violence but the overall level of violence is as low as many people can remember.
For the first time in 30 years, there are no regular soldiers stationed on the streets of Belfast
The city, largely freed of the threat of violence and terrorism, is as vibrant as any in Europe.
There's a real sense of optimism about Northern Ireland's economic prospects.
And there's been progress, too, on human rights and tackling inequality and discrimination.
Not for the first time, of course, in this process we have real problems to overcome. But we should not forget what the progress made means to the people of Northern Ireland.
And it's why, when people say that the Good Friday Agreement is over, they have got it badly wrong.
For it's only through the full implementation of the Agreement that we can deliver the peace that people want.
No-one from the very beginning of this process has put forward a realistic alternative. The agreement remains the only show in town.
And there's something else that strikes you when you spend time speaking to people in Northern Ireland as I did earlier this week.
An antidote, in a way, to the widespread cynicism about politics in so many parts of the world.
Across Northern Ireland and in both communities, there was a real welcome for the Executive and the Assembly, a real joy, a real sense of achievement and ownership.
It was not just pride or the fact that people in Northern Ireland have more control over their own lives.
They saw it as a symbol of the better future they want for themselves and their families.
It was, I can assure you, with the greatest reluctance that we took the decision to suspend the Assembly and the Executive.
But I can also promise you that we want to restore these institutions and implement the rest of the Good Friday Agreement as quickly as possible. And I believe it can be done.
It won't be easy. It will need patience and courage.
The central questions - on government, on decommissioning - are clear. We are working flat out to find the answers.
And I believe there remains a real commitment to find a solution because we've come too far to fail.
After my discussions in Northern Ireland earlier this week, I believe the lasting peace which is the overwhelming desire of the people of Northern Ireland remains within our grasp.
I can promise that we will keep working to ensure this opportunity for peace and prosperity - the best for a generation - is not wasted.
It is now my pleasure to ask the Taoiseach, the Irish Prime Minister to address you.
Thank you very much Prime Minister.
It's my pleasure and honour to join with you in this week's Webcast and to say a few words on this the second anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement - the most important Agreement that has happened and a historic achievement in relations between Britain and Ireland since the Treaty 80 years ago.
I believe that we, during that week of two years ago, got the balance right and the institutions were working extremely well, responding to the real needs of real people. All sides were beginning to reach out to each other.
Tragically therefore the institutions are in suspension. Above all else, the Prime Minister and myself and all of the Parties are determined to put them back in place at the earliest possible date. It's our highest priority to do that. We believe that the institutions are working for Loyalists and Republicans, for Unionists and Nationalists and can make Northern Ireland prosperous.
The economic prosperity in the North is beginning to grow. Peace is at its strongest ever. Violence thankfully has practically stopped in all its respects. And if we can continue to renew our collective commitment to the Good Friday Agreement we can restore the institutions and bring forward the implementation of all the Agreements and all its aspects.
I agree fully with the Prime Minister that on issues of human rights, on equality, of the implementation of many parts of the Agreement, that it's worked extraordinarily well.
We are seeing peaceful cooperation between communities. We are seeing greater cooperation North and South and in the period that the north south bodies were operating, we saw the prosperity of the islands moving forward.
And what is true of our excellent economic relations holds good for cooperation in sports and politics, in culture and social life.
I am proud of the quality of the relationships between Ireland and Britain that's been built up by Tony Blair and I over the last two years. And I wanted to publicly acknowledge the role which everybody plays to do that and particularly what the British Government have done.
I believe that strong Anglo-Irish relations are a great source to our country and I am determined to make them stronger in every way moving forward. The relations between Ireland and Britain on the economic front have never been better. And the level of economic inter-dependence between us has never been greater.
And for all of these reasons, and the fact that our people are now again travelling across the sea - an enormous part of tourism and an enormous part of investment, last year 3.4 million people visited Ireland from Britain, this new relationship which we have built up together can be completed and we can see the Good Friday Agreement in all its respects in an inclusive way with all of the parties working together successfully implemented.
I look forward on the other side of the Easter break to continuing this work with the British Prime Minister and thank him for the enormous amount of involvement and commitment and dedication he's given to it over the last three years.