August 31 marked the 20th anniversary of the 1994 IRA ceasefire that paved the way for the ending of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the beginning of the Good Friday Agreement. This historic event is being celebrated all over Ireland and America as the world remembers this historic moment. Niall O’Dowd, co founder of Irish America and founder of IrishCentral, offered nothing but jubilation when he recalled hearing the Angelus bell ring and realizing that the work that he and the rest of the Connolly House Group had done for over three years was finally complete. He said it was “a magnificent moment, for Sinn Féin, for Irish America, but mostly for Ireland.”
It was on that day in August 1994 when Ireland and the rest of the world breathed a sigh of relief knowing that peace could be possible. The late Albert Reynolds, who passed away late August, played a significant role as did politicians on both sides of the Atlantic including Sinn Féin leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, Senator Ted Kennedy, SDLP Leader John Hume and President Bill Clinton. McGuinness hailed the decision as a crucial step forward in Irish history saying, “I think of all of the decisions that have been taken, if you are asking what was absolutely key and critical to end the war, and end the conflict that has existed to the detriment of all of us for far too long, the most important decision of all of the decisions taken in the last 20 years was that decision.” Gerry Adams singled out the importance of Irish Americans in the ceasefire and later peace process, telling The Irish Times, “Irish America was key,” adding that “the peace process was also now on the agenda of the Clinton administration.”
The initial ceasefire was rocky at first, and many were unsure that it would last, but it was the start of a new era in the history of Ireland, one where peace could not only be possible, but permanent as well.