Here’s a little-known fact: I named the Good Friday Agreement. Or to be more strictly accurate, I was one of the people initially involved in naming it.
I was reminded of this by a friend the other day after I blogged about how new words are born, and when they catch on. If you’re interested, here’s the full story.
I was working as a duty editor at Teletext at the time, and was on duty that Easter weekend. In those days, Teletext was a big deal – we had more than 25 million viewers who relied on us for news, sport, weather, TV listings, travel news, lottery numbers and all kinds of entertainment. And every major newsroom had a TV which was tuned to Teletext at all times, watching for the big, breaking stories. (Note for non-UK readers: Teletext was a sort of prequel to the internet, a service made up of pages of electronic text which you could access on your TV. )
One of our features was a viewers’ telephone poll on a news issue of the day. And on this day there could only be one poll question: “Do you back the Stormont agreement?”
Because that’s what it was called just then: the Stormont Agreement.
The poll was all set up and just about to go to air when I took a call from a viewer. I don’t know his name – I seem to remember that it was a man who phoned fairly frequently, but who never gave his name. He suggested that since we all wanted peace – and indeed, we did – we should think of a better name for the deal.
After all, did “storm-mont” really suggest the best chance of peace for a generation? And would connecting this deal to the fairly chequered history of Stormont itself make the locals look favourably on it in their forthcoming referendum? And did it really work as a name: there had been previous Stormont Agreements about other things, hadn’t there?
Once the obvious alternative name struck us, with its embedded hint that the deal was “good”, the decision made itself.
So up on the service went: “Do you back the Good Friday Agreement?”
That name instantly appeared on TV screens in almost every newsroom in the land. It was picked up by the Press Association, who operated Teletext’s news service as well as providing copy to national, international and regional news organisations.
And the rest, as they say, is history.