Some of Northern Ireland’s most esteemed journalists and photo-journalists have shared their stories as part of a recorded conversations series to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Deric Henderson, Ivan Little, Amanda Ferguson and photo-journalist Paul Faith from Ballymena, have been filmed in some of the most iconic settings of political negotiations at Hillsborough Castle, often referred to as the ‘Backstage Diplomat’, such is the Castle’s historic place in successful Irish and British politics.
While many of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement made the pilgrimage back to the scene of extensive negotiations and quiet talks at Hillsborough Castle in April, the journalists reflected on their time both inside those rooms, and outside the gates waiting for updates and breakthroughs from various press officers.
Journalists Deric Henderson and Ivan Little
Deric Henderson and Ivan Little met in the State Drawing Room, a place of relaxation for both royal and political residents, where the co-authors reminisced on events ranging from the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and covering the protests which took over both Belfast City Hall and the village of Hillsborough in 1985, plus looked back on Secretaries of State over the years, including Mo Mowlam’s role throughout the peace process negotiations.
Speaking of Hillsborough Castle’s place in political history, Deric Henderson commented:
"There’s no doubt about it, Hillsborough Castle is where the spade-work and all the ground work was done [for the Good Friday Agreement]. If these walls could only talk, there’d be some stories.”
And it’s those stories that have been told as part of the series, with Deric reminiscing on his time spent at VIP dinners with senior politicians, while Ivan recalls reporting from various political talks and negotiations, breakthroughs and historic moments, as well as the odd Royal Garden Party.
Freelance journalist Amanda Ferguson talking to local photo-journalist Paul Faith
Amanda Ferguson, a freelance journalist who contributes to local press and broadcast discussions, as well as regular pieces for Reuters and The Washington Post, sat down with award-winning photo-journalist and Ballymena man Paul Faith, who covered the conflict and subsequent peace processes in Northern Ireland over the past four decades during his time with Pacemaker Press and Press Association Ireland, to discuss how some of his iconic photographs came to pass.
Mr Faith’s photographs capture some of the most famous political and royal moments in Northern Ireland, from the notorious ‘Chuckle Brothers’ photograph of the late Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, to the historic handshake between Mr McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth II.
In the film, he recalls how he was more often found huddled against the elements in the Castle gate’s pillar boxes than sitting in front of the fireplace in the State Dining Room, where their interview was recorded.
“Sometimes [Hillsborough Castle] feels like a second home, I’ve been here that often. I’ve been in this room (the State Dining Room) with the great and the good taking pictures, in fact this is the first time I’ve been here without a camera. Normally we’re outside on the wall or peering through the railings… when the weather was bad, we would jump in [the pillarboxes] and shelter. There is a picture of three of four photographers all huddled in there in bad weather!”
Laura McCorry, Head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens added:
“This recorded conversation series is yet another piece of living history captured for our archives, helping piece together the substantial role that Hillsborough Castle and Gardens continues to play in in the history of Northern Ireland.
“The series is a fascinating insight into the experiences of journalists who were front and centre in the ‘90s, bringing us the news of negotiations and breakthroughs through our newspapers, radios and TV screens and it’s a privilege to hear them first hand within our State Rooms."
VIDEO ONE: Journalists Deric Henderson and Ivan Little reflect on their time both inside those rooms, and outside the gates of Hillsborough Castle waiting for updates and breakthroughs during negotiations.
00:00 Hillsborough Castle
1:11 Reflections on being back at Hillsborough Castle
3:04 Protests and Demonstrations
4:48 The role of Hillsborough Castle
7:48 The History that was made here
10:02 How times have changed
11:37 A way to Peace
13:18 April 1998
VIDEO TWO: Ballymena man and photo-journalist Paul Faith talks with Amanda Ferguson reflecting on his time both inside the rooms, and outside the gates of Hissborough Castle, waiting for updates and breakthroughs during negotiations.
00:00 Scenes of Hillsborough Castle
02:10 The mood around the Good Friday Agreement
03:50 A sense of hope
04:20 Hillsborough Castle and the Good Friday Agreement
09:12 The other side of the lens
14:04 Best photos over the years
17:52 The future