20 Years Ago — The Good Friday Agreement (April 10 1998)

“Compromise is when people come together and say, ‘listen, this is the dilemma, this is the difficulty, this is what is unsaleable to my people’ and let us try and find a way out.”

Bertie Ahern

“The Good Friday Agreement is a work of genius that’s applicable if you care at all about preserving democracy.”

Bill Clinton

“In Northern Ireland, these were ordinary men and women but after 700 days of failure, they joined in one day of success and they changed the course of history.”

Former US Senator George Mitchell

Tony Blair, George Mitchell and Bertie Ahern

The anniversary conference is taking place at Queen’s University, Belfast. The panel discussion is chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell, who also chaired the 1998 talks. The Good Friday agreement committed the participants to “exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues”. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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On April 10 1998, the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland was signed by the British and Irish governments.

The Good Friday Agreement was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s.

Northern Ireland’s present devolved system of government is based on this agreement.

The agreement also created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The agreement is made up of two inter-related documents, both agreed in Belfast on Good Friday, 10 April 1998:

1.a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties (the Multi-Party Agreement);
2.an international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British-Irish Agreement).

The agreement set out a complex series of provisions relating to a number of areas including:

The status and system of government of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. (Strand 1)

The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (Strand 2)

The relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. (Strand 3)

Issues relating to sovereignty, civil and cultural rights, decommissioning of weapons, justice and policing were central to the agreement.

The agreement was approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on 22 May 1998.

In Northern Ireland, voters were asked in the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement referendum, 1998 whether they supported the multi-party agreement.

In the Republic of Ireland, voters were asked whether they would allow the state to sign the agreement and allow necessary constitutional changes (Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland) to facilitate it.

The people of both jurisdictions needed to approve the agreement in order to give effect to it.

The British-Irish Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999. [Wikipedia]

The Good Friday agreement committed the participants to both the decommissioning of weapons held by paramilitary groups and the normalisation of security arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Both the British and Irish governments also committed to the early release of prisoners serving sentences in connection with the activities of paramilitary groups, provided that those groups continued to maintain “a complete and unequivocal ceasefire”.

All cases were reviewed individually and there was no amnesty for crimes which had not been prosecuted.

Interview with Bertie Ahern – BBC Newsnight

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Evan Davis met up with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to discuss the past and future of the peace deal.

REFERENCES

Good Friday Agreement was ‘work of genius’ — BBC

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20 Years Ago — The Good Friday Agreement (April 10 1998)

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