After nearly two years of talks, the Good Friday Agreement, a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s, is signed by Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Good Friday, April 10, 1998 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement brings to an end the 30 years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles.” Northern Ireland’s present devolved system of government is based on the Agreement.
The Agreement is made up of two inter-related documents: (1) a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties and (2) an international agreement between the British and Irish governments called the British-Irish Agreement.
The Agreement sets 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), and the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom (Strand 3).
Issues relating to civil and cultural rights, decommissioning of weapons, justice and policing are central to the Agreement.
The Agreement is approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on May 22, 1998. The people of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland need to approve the Agreement in order for it to come into effect. In Northern Ireland, voters are asked whether they support the multi-party agreement. In the Republic of Ireland, voters are asked whether they will allow the state to sign the agreement and allow necessary constitutional changes to facilitate it.
The British-Irish Agreement comes into force on December 2, 1999. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the only major political group in Northern Ireland to oppose the Good Friday Agreement.