The next episode of UTV’s award winning current affairs programme investigates the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, by examining what the thinking and hopes were at that time, and asks a range of people, has the peace process delivered meaningful change.
UTV reporter Judith Hill presents the programme entitled ‘An Imperfect Peace’. She spoke to a diverse mix of local voices, including Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody; actor Bronagh Waugh; award-winning artist Colin Davidson; and former ITN correspondent Bill Neely.
As well as the famous faces, Judith also spends time with young people, clergy and community workers, and peace campaigners from both sides of the community and hears about their frustrations and hopes, and what they feel are the barriers to true integration.
Colin Davidson talks about his ‘Silent Testimony’ exhibition, depicting portraits of people who are connected throughout their individual experiences of loss through The Troubles, commenting:
“You can’t sweep that away and pretend it didn’t exist – we were hurt in this place – there are so many scars and we need to face up to that."
He recalls the signing of the Good Friday Agreement saying: “Twenty-five years ago, there was incredible hope - we’d lived in a reasonably hopeless society for so long – there was a sense of ‘upbeatness’ about the place, a sense we could be proud of this place.”
Former ITN and NBC correspondent, Bill Neely tells Judith how the Troubles were a backdrop to his growing up and attending school in North Belfast. He recalls reporting on the Israeli / Palestinian peace agreement in 1993 and thought at the time, “If it can happen to Israelis and Palestinians, why can’t it happen where I’m from?’
Gary Lightbody tells Judith about his going to school and socialising in Belfast during the Troubles.
He said: “There was never a point where I thought it was going to end. When it did, I honestly could not have been happier.”
The resounding feeling from all the young people interviewed is a desire to be more integrated and work on peace and reconciliation. Judith speaks to a number of groups who continue to make great strides in this area, be that through art or sport.
At a cross-community art project in Lanark Way, community worker Stephen Hughes says, “Kids are sending a message – ‘we want something better.’”
Whilst there is an acceptance that progress is not what it should be, the programme ends on a hopeful note. Colin Davidson says: “My immense hope for the future is based on us, once and for all, society and political point of view, dealing with our past.”
Reporter Judith Hill said,"Right from the start with this programme we were keen to reflect the kaleidoscopic perspectives and experiences of this patchwork society we're part of. What we noticed in filming was that people speak passionately from the soul. There's a passion people have for this place that allows them to share candidly about the challenges of peace and their hopes for what happens next."
Producer Alison Fleming said, “I started my career in journalism over 25 years ago and the Good Friday Agreement has been the backdrop to so many of the stories I’ve covered. With this ‘Up Close’ we wanted to examine the struggles 25 years on and hear from real voices - voices of different generations. It’s fair to say that while there is much criticism of what the Good Friday Agreement has achieved, people who remember the past don’t want to go back there. There is still a massive amount of hope and goodwill especially among the young people that things will continue to get better.”
‘Up Close’ airs on Wednesday night, 5th April at 10.45pm on UTV.
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