In Search of Peace: The Fate and Legacy of the Good Friday Agreement. (Perspectives)

By Ahern, Bertie | Harvard International Review, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

In Search of Peace: The Fate and Legacy of the Good Friday Agreement. (Perspectives)


Ahern, Bertie, Harvard International Review


In 1920 and 1921, after centuries of British rule, including 120 years when the entire island was governed as part of the United Kingdom, 26 of the 32 Irish counties gained independence. The other six counties remained in political union with Britain as Northern Ireland. However, while the United Kingdom's Parliament at Westminster continued to exercise sovereignty, power was devolved to a local parliament, established in 1920 at Stormont in Belfast.

For the next 50 years, the devolved Stormont government operated with virtual autonomy from London on local matters. Power remained exclusively in the hands of the Unionist party; which drew its support from those favoring union with Britain. The minority nationalist community, on the other hand, represented the desire for Irish unity. They had no role in government and suffered systematic discrimination in many areas, including voting rights, housing, and employment.

In 1969, campaigners for civil rights received a hostile, repressive response. Northern Ireland then entered into a sustained political and security crisis. Paramilitary activity by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and loyalist extremist groups increased. In this deteriorating situation, the British government assumed direct responsibility for all aspects of the government of Northern Ireland. IRA and loyalist violence, however, continued with little respite until 1994.

From the early 1980s, the British and Irish governments began to cooperate more closely in an effort to achieve a widely acceptable and durable political settlement in Northern Ireland. This effort involved the successive establishment of a number of structures for negotiation and a growing convergence on the fundamental principles that should underpin a final peace settlement.

Initially, an Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council was set up to provide a formal framework within which to conduct relations. Later, under the terms of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, an Intergovernmental Conference was established, chaired jointly by a representative of each government, and served by a permanent Joint Secretariat. The agreement enabled the Irish government to put forward views and proposals on many aspects of Northern Ireland's affairs for the first time, prompting both governments to intensify their work toward a solution to the Northern Ireland problem.

To that end, in December 1993 a joint declaration was issued that set out the basic principles of a peace process. Central to the declaration were the principles of self-determination and consent. The declaration stated that the British government had "no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland" and reaffirmed that "they will uphold the democratic wish of a greater number of the people of Northern Ireland on the issue of whether they prefer to support the Union or a sovereign united Ireland." The British government further agreed "that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish." Furthermore, the declaration recognized that "the democratic right of self-determination by the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and conse nt of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland."

In February 1995, "A New Framework for Agreement" was published, describing how to reach an accommodation without compromising the long-term aspirations of either community in Northern Ireland. The governments also committed themselves to comprehensive negotiations involving the Northern Ireland parties, the outcome of which would be submitted for democratic ratification through referenda in the North and South.

The following year, the publication of the framework document was dominated by efforts to move to comprehensive political talks.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

In Search of Peace: The Fate and Legacy of the Good Friday Agreement. (Perspectives)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?