Division still present in ceasefire generation, say women born in April 1998

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Two women who were born during the month the Good Friday Agreement was signed have said the legacy of division from the Troubles in Northern Ireland is still affecting the ceasefire generation.

Eavann Mallon was born on April 14 1998, and Hannah Knott was born on April 4.

Ms Mallon grew up near Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and went to a Catholic primary and secondary school.

Ms Mallon said she realised there was still division in Northern Ireland when her primary school took part in an outreach scheme where the pupils met children from the local Protestant school.

“It was only whenever we started having those outreaches, whenever I was maybe, like, six or seven, that it suddenly occurred to me that these people have a totally different background to what I had,” she said.

Ms Knott said her background made her aware of divisions in Northern Ireland but as she attended an integrated primary school and high school, she only realised the importance of community background and religion when she was in her teens.

“So it never really struck me too much until I was, like, maybe 14, 15, I started to have my own friend group and they were all on ‘the one side’,” she said.

“That was when I was like, ‘Oh, it’s actually a really big deal here’, because obviously, in England, no one talks about it. It’s not a discussed thing.”

Hannah Knott, who was born in April 1998, photographed in Belfast, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 30 2023. See PA story ULSTER Agreement Babies. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Hannah Knott (Liam McBurney/PA)

“I’ve definitely noticed the impact of it,” Ms Mallon said.

“I remember one of my good friends that I met at university, a couple of my good friends had very English names, and I remember meeting them and whenever I got talking to them about it I just assumed that they were Protestant because my sort of experience with it was people with Irish names were Catholic and people with English names were Protestant.

“I was meeting people who have very English names and then they were saying that they’re cut from the same cloth that I am.”

Ms Knott said: “I remember talking to my friend once and getting into a big argument.

“She was going on about the border and how much she was passionate about keeping our border, and I was like, ‘It’s a line on the map, doesn’t really matter that much’. That was exactly what I said and she had a full on fallout with me.

Ms Knott said there is no formal education about the contents of the Good Friday Agreement in schools.

“Where I’ve learned the most about the Good Friday Agreement was that episode of Derry Girls, because before that, apart from the fact that I knew that it was a good thing that ended a lot of issues, I knew nothing about it,” she said.

Derry Girls mural
A Derry Girls mural in the Northern Ireland city (Alamy/PA)

Ms Mallon said it is important for the ceasefire generation to know what is in the Good Friday Agreement.

“I think it’s more important than ever that young people know what the Good Friday is, how it came about, what it means and what we need to do with it, to allow the older generation to see that change isn’t as scary as they might think,” she said.

Ms Mallon said she would like to see people being more accepting of others’ opinions in the next 25 years.

“You can’t change someone else’s opinion. You can try to understand it, then they can start to open themselves up to the idea that they all exist,” she said.

“It may be easier to try and find a solution that suits maybe not everybody but the majority.”

“It sounds so simple but that is what I think is missing.

“The fact people our age are going into politics is, I think, a very positive thing because we’re kind of removed from the actual act of it.

“We’re removed from seeing the streets destroyed and seeing the actual fighting, we can take a step back and look at our perspective.”

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