The Good Friday Agreement, a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process, comes into operation on December 2, 1999 as the British and Irish governments formally notify each other that all the necessary arrangements are in place.
The notification ceremony takes place at Iveagh House, St. Stephen’s Green, headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, at a joint signing by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade David Andrews and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Mandelson.
Northern Ireland‘s present devolved system of government is based on the agreement. The agreement also creates 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 upon in Belfast on Good Friday, April 10, 1998. The first is a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties. The second is an international agreement between the British and Irish governments, known as the British-Irish Agreement.
The agreement sets out a complex series of provisions, or strands, relating to a number of areas:
Strand 1 addresses the status and system of government of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and establishes two major institutions – the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive.
Strand 2 addresses the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the institutions to be created between them – the North/South Ministerial Council, the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association, and the North/South Consultative Forum.
Strand 3 addresses the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and institutions to be created between Ireland and Great Britain – the British/Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the British-Irish Council, and an expanded British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
The agreement is approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on May 22, 1998. 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 people of both jurisdictions need to approve the agreement in order to give effect to it.
The Good Friday 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.
(Pictured: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sign the Good Friday Agreement)