The Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, was signed on April 10, 1998, between the British and Irish governments, as well as political parties in Northern Ireland. The agreement brought an end to decades of conflict and violence in Northern Ireland, known as The Troubles, which resulted in the loss of over 3,500 lives.
The agreement is a complex document, consisting of multiple sections and annexes, with provisions covering a range of issues related to governance, justice, policing, and human rights. Here are some of the key provisions of the Good Friday Agreement in full:
1. Power-sharing government – The agreement established a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, which involves the appointment of a joint First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The government is made up of the largest unionist and nationalist parties, with other parties represented through a system of proportional representation.
2. Devolved government – The agreement also devolved a range of powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly, including the areas of health, education, and agriculture. The Assembly is responsible for making decisions on these matters, subject to the approval of the British and Irish governments.
3. Human rights – The agreement includes a commitment to uphold human rights, including the European Convention on Human Rights, in Northern Ireland. It also provides for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission to oversee the implementation of these provisions.
4. Policing – The agreement created a new police service in Northern Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The new service is required to reflect the community it serves, and is overseen by an independent Policing Board.
5. Justice – The agreement established a new system of justice in Northern Ireland, with the creation of a Justice Minister and a Department of Justice. The new system is designed to be more transparent and accountable, and to reflect the needs of the community.
6. Decommissioning – The agreement included a commitment by paramilitary groups to decommission their weapons, with an independent decommissioning body established to oversee the process. This was a key step in building confidence and trust between the parties.
7. North-South cooperation – The agreement includes provisions for cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on a range of cross-border issues, including transport, energy, and tourism. This cooperation is aimed at promoting economic development and reconciliation in the region.
These are just some of the key provisions of the Good Friday Agreement in full. The agreement has been successful in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, and its principles have been used as a model for conflict resolution in other parts of the world. While there have been challenges to its implementation over the years, the agreement remains an important milestone in the history of Northern Ireland and the wider United Kingdom.