Good Friday Agreement, also called Belfast Agreement or the Agreement, accord reached on April 10, 1998, and ratified in both Ireland and Northern Ireland by popular vote on May 22 that called for devolved government in Northern Ireland. In the wake of Brexit, Britain has been warned its attempt to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement it signed with the European Union threatens the peace brokered in Northern Ireland more than two decades ago. The 1998 Agreement brought an end to more than 30 years of conflict over British rule in the province.
In 1921, an Anglo-Irish Treaty had granted most of the island of Ireland autonomy from Britain, but maintained British rule over six northern counties with a large Protestant population.
In the late 1960s, tensions between Catholic Republicans and members of the pro-British Unionist majority spilled over into riots. British troops were deployed on the streets. These ethno-political conflicts in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe are known as “The Troubles”.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA), originally the name given to a militia that fought for Irish independence in the early part of the century, re-emerged during this period. From 1972 onwards the splinter Provisional IRA took over the mantle of the armed struggle against British rule.
London took over direct rule of Northern Ireland in 1972, the bloodiest year of the “Troubles”, when 467 people including 321 civilians were killed. This is kown as “Bloody Sunday”, when British paratroopers shot dead 13 protesters. In all, more than 3,600 people died in the conflict.
The landmark agreement, also called the Belfast Agreement, was signed on April 10, 1998 between the then-Prime Ministers of Britain and Ireland, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.
Eight political parties or groupings also signed the document, stating in the text it was a “truly historic opportunity for a new beginning”
In 2002, the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended and its decision-making duties were returned to the UK government.
Five years later, the Assembly was given back power and in 2007, the British army officially ended its operations in Northern Ireland. However, in January 2017, the deal between the main parties in Northern Ireland collapsed – and it has yet to be restored.
The region’s political parties still disagree and are locked in a stand-off with each other. Many people hope that a peaceful, power-sharing arrangement can be reached again soon.
Although the politicians continue to disagree, there has been no return to the violence once seen in Northern Ireland. It is a much more peaceful place and many say that’s because of the Good Friday Agreement.
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