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This isn’t Peace

The Ceasefire Babies was what they called us. Those too young to remember the worst of the terror because we were either in nappies or just out of them when the Provisional IRA ceasefire was called… We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us.

“Suicide of the Ceasefire Babies” by Lyra McKee

I’m a few years younger than Lyra was – my mum was pregnant with me when the ceasefire was announced and I’m too young to remember the Good Friday Agreement. As far as much of the world is concerned, I grew up in ‘peace’, in a ‘post-conflict’ society, with investment from the British and Irish governments, the EU, and numerous multinational corporations who, through “EMU Trips” (where wee Protestants and wee Catholics went on school trips together to learn that they’re actually the same) and the creation of such empowering opportunities as minimum wage call centre jobs, would ensure that we wouldn’t be shooting each other, presumably because we were so worn down by the lack of opportunity that we either are too depressed or have run away to somewhere else

Why then, if we have such “peace” and are so “post-conflict”, did I grow up watching kids my age being attacked for going to their school because they had to walk through the ‘wrong’ area? Why do I remember my own primary school being closed because the rioting in the area was too bad? Why did I witness a carbomb first hand when I was 14? Why do my friends still flinch when a firework goes off or a balloon pops? Why was Lyra shot while covering riots as a journalist? I’m no expert but those don’t sound like experiences people who have grown up almost entirely in “peace” should have. Of course, our experiences are better than those of our parents – it has taken until I’m 24 to wake up to news that someone I knew has been shot, which is obviously a privilege, because if I’d been born thirty years earlier I wouldn’t be so ‘lucky’. We should take our ‘peace’ and our Agreement and our ceasefires and be grateful because it’s better, and not question it too much, because this pathetic excuse for peace is too fragile to be scrutinised and interrogated and forced to prove itself.

The most hope I’ve ever felt for my home has been when attending equal marriage rallies and Pride parades, with thousands of strong, angry people united in a cause of acceptance, tolerance, and love.

And now, just as we can’t ask for actual peace because that would be too unattainable and we shouldn’t get such notions, we can’t be so bold as to ask for luxuries such as equal rights for LGBTQ people and Irish speakers, or for any sort of consequences for the party who has consistently been involved in and associated with scandals costing billions of pounds. Instead we should be grateful that there is talk of talks starting again, that there may be ministers in position to sign off on the essential funding for essential services that has been delayed for two years. We should be grateful that, rather than being no leadership, there will instead be inadequate leadership. That there still won’t be an Irish language act as promised by the Good Friday Agreement, or equal marriage as in Britain and Ireland, but hey at least the health service might be marginally less in crisis. How low are our standards and expectations, how small is our self-esteem as a society, that we think that this is what we deserve?

But it’s not enough. “Better than nothing” is killing people. “Better than nothing” killed Lyra. It’s not enough to settle for some poor excuse for representation, for a half-hearted interpretation of the Good Friday Agreement – the one thing (the) North[ern] (of) Ireland has ever had any sort of consensus on. We should be so bold as to ask for better than “better than nothing”, for more than “relative peace”, for equality beyond “at least they’re not putting you in prison anymore”, and for the ceasefire babies to have a life beyond call centres, paramilitary-fuelled addiction, suicide, or the ferry.