Denne oppgaven inneholder bilder.
Logg inn via Facebook for å se dem.
I tillegg til overnevnte, er oppgaven også skrevet av Victoria Stewart.
This chapter describes major
“Peace Process events” in the period of the history of Northern Ireland from
1992 until 1999. It is often defined as the latest round of the peace process.
It is clear that the chapter can only cover those of the events that seem to
have certain significance for the process as such of that period. The chapter also talks more significant about the
most recent event, “The Good Friday Agreement.” The Good Friday Agreement is
the most momentous event in the Peace Process and we felt it exceedingly
relevant to discuss this momentum more attentively.
1992 - 1993: The peace process begins
On April 10,
1992, two IRA bombs exploded in the centre of London. The tension in Northern
Ireland rose when the Ulster Defence Force was banned in August. 76 people were
killed by republican and loyalist terrorists in this year. There was little
cause to believe that 1992 could bring peace closer.
Sinn Fein’s close
connection to the IRA raised the question whether the governments in Dublin and
London should ban Sinn Fein. If the British government had decided to ban the
party, the current peace process might not have been possible. But both
governments decided to avoid confrontation with the IRA in late 1992, and
instead draw the republican movement’s leaders into constitutional discussion.
SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) leader John Hume and Sinn
Fein’s Gerry Adams met several times and launched a peace initiative (in April
1993), confirming that negotiations were very important for reaching a
settlement in Northern Ireland. The British and Irish governments responded
positively to the moves, and supported multi-party talks on Northern Ireland,
one of the key requirements of Sinn Fein. But the situation deteriorated in
October 1992, when an IRA bomb killed 10 people and wounded 61 in a busy
Belfast shopping district. A week later, loyalist gunmen opened fire in a
nationalist pub, killing seven and wounding 11. This wave of violence forced
both Dublin and London to act.
The Joint Declaration (The Downing Street Declaration)
On 15 December
1993, John Major, then British Prime Minister and Albert Reynolds, then
Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) of the Irish Republic, issued a Joint
Declaration, also known as the Downing Street Declaration. It was intended to
complement and underpin the political talk-process and the search for a
comprehensive political settlement.
All parties, which acted with peaceful methods, would be free to
participate fully in democratic politics and join dialogue between the
Government and the other political parties on the way ahead.
The two main
messages of the Declaration were quite simple:
The agreement accepted a possible end to Ireland’s
partition, but promised no change without approval of the majority.
The agreement promised to hold all-party talks on the
future of Northern Ireland, with Sinn Fein being allowed to enter talks if the
IRA laid down its arms. All parties, which acted with peaceful methods, would
be free to participate fully in democratic politics, and join dialogue between
the Government and the other political parties on the way ahead.
It is clear that the Downing Street Declaration is one of the milestones
of the history of Northern Ireland’s conflict, especially because it offeredrepublicans to enter politics if IRA
violence ceased, and stressed that Britain did not have any selfish interests
in the province.
The IRA and republican circles pondered the Downing Street Declaration
and its consequences through much of the spring of 1994, "seeking
clarification". On March 11, the IRA launched two mortar attacks on
Heathrow airport. Gerry Adams commented on the attacks by saying that they will
"accelerate the peace process".
In April 1994, IRA called for a
three-day cease-fire, the first outside the traditional Christmas truces since
And then, on August 31, 1994, the historic moment came. The IRA
announced in a statement to the media a complete cessation of military
operations. In September, it declared an indefinite cease-fire.
We quote a significant part of the IRA statement, as it can serve as a
good illustration of this stage of the peace process.
“Our struggle has seen many
gains and advances made by nationalists and for the democratic position. We
believe that an opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement has been
created. We are therefore entering into a new situation in a spirit of
determination and confidence, determined that the injustices which created this
conflict will be removed and confident in the strength and justice of our
struggle to achieve this. (…) We note that the Downing Street Declaration is
not a solution, nor did its authors present it as such. A solution will only be
found as a result of inclusive negotiations. Others, not least the British
government, have a duty to face up to their responsibilities. It is our desire
to significantly contribute to the creation of a climate, which will encourage
this. We urge everyone to approach this situation with energy, determination
There are no doubts that the IRA cease-fire was a key moment of the
This was followed by the announcement of the cease-fire of the loyalist
paramilitary groups on 13 October 1994:
“… The Combined Loyalist
Military Command will universally cease all operational hostilities as from 12
midnight on Thursday, Oct. 13, 1994. The permanence of our cease-fire will be
completely dependent upon the continued cessation of all nationalist/republican
violence; the sole responsibility for a return to war lies with them. (...)Let
us firmly resolve to respect our different views of freedom, culture and
aspiration and never again permit our political circumstance to degenerate into
bloody warfare. We are on the threshold of a new and exciting beginning with
our battles in future being political battles, fought on the side of honesty,
decency and democracy, against the negativity of mistrust, misunderstanding and
malevolence, so that together we can bring forth a wholesome society, in which
our children and their children will know the meaning of peace."
People living in Northern Ireland agreed that the IRA cease-fire was one
of the greatest moments of their lives, as it gave them hope and a chance to
live in peace after 25 years of violence. For many of them, there was only one
interpretation of the IRA cease-fire - the IRA and extreme republicans were
more or less satisfied with recent developments and gave up their armed
struggle. Peace had reached the province and the war was over. A new chapter of
the history began. Analysts warned that this was not what the IRA statement
meant, but doubts like that was lost in waves of optimism. As a result of the
cease-fire, the British Army announced its first Northern Ireland troop reduction
It is relatively easy to evaluate the second half of 1994 from the point
of view of its significance for the peace process. This period was probably the
most promising period in the history of the conflict. Both sides committed
themselves to use and support only peaceful and democratic methods. British
government started dialogue with representatives of Sinn Fein, security
measures in Northern Ireland were dramatically reduced, and the Province was
experiencing a level of normality unknown for many years. But as Gerry Adams
told republican rally in Belfast, "The
IRA haven’t gone away."
From the Frameworks for the Future to the Mitchell Commission
On 22 February 1995, John Major and Prime Minister John Bruton launched "A New Framework for Agreement”. This
document set out the British and Irish governments proposals for relationships
within the island of Ireland and between the two governments. The document dealt with issues, which were
not relevant to any of the stages of the peace process. At the time of their
publication, peace talks seemed to be too far away to consider them seriously.
From the point of view of the peace process, another event turned out to
be very important. The British government and the leader of the UUP David
Trimble formulated a new precondition that some IRA weapons had to be
decommissioned. Only after this "confidence-building measure", Sinn
Fein could be included in all-party talks. This was practically impossible for
the IRA and "the peace process
ground to a halt." Republicans felt betrayed and Sinn Fein broke off
talks with the British government.
The Irish government postponed summit talks with Britain, refusing to
accept the precondition.
In order to push the process ahead, the governments in London and Dublin
announced what they called a "twin-track. One track was intended "to bring all parties together for
substantive negotiations aimed at a political settlement based on
The other track concerned the decommissioning of arms, and established
an International Body to provide an independent assessment of the
decommissioning issue. At the end of November, Bill Clinton became the first US
president to visit Northern Ireland, what was seen as an important gesture
supporting the peace process.
On January 24, 1996, the International Body on Arms Decommissioning
(generally know as the Mitchell Commission), chaired by formed U.S. Senator and
Clinton’s Ireland economic advisor George Mitchell, published its report.
The report on illegal arms in Northern Ireland concluded that
paramilitary groups would not decommission weapons in advance of all-party
talks, as demanded by the British government.
It also laid out six principles (known as "the Mitchell
Principles") of non-violence and democracy. The report recommended that
all parties involved in talks should make a commitment to them. All sides of
the conflict, except Unionists welcomed the suggestions. They rejected the
multi-party talks without arms decommissioning. The Mitchell’s suggestions
seemed to create a new path to the beginning of negotiations, especially
because they stressed the impossibility of the IRA’s surrender in advance of
talks. A new opportunity for peace seemed to have been created. The Independent wrote: "The Prime Minister should seize upon it. (...) Not to accept it
would risk derailing the peace process completely."
The British government claimed that it was under no obligation to accept
any of the report’s recommendations. After a short hesitation, John Major
accepted the possibility of parallel decommissioning.
The situation was generally evaluated as a little bit more optimistic,
and there are no doubts that the Mitchell Commission played a significant role
in the peace process.
But after 17 months, the dream about peace ended….
The end of the cease-fire
On February 9, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams told a local radio station in
Ulster in the afternoon that the IRA’s cease-fire was "total and permanent". Just before 6 p.m. that same day,
RTE (the Irish Republic’s radio and television network) was told in coded
warning that the cease-fire was at an end. At 7.01 p.m. the explosion of a huge
home-made device, planted in a small lorry in the Docklands area of London,
caused immediate damage estimated at £ 85 million. This brought the IRA
cease-fire, after 17 months of peace, to an end. Two people were killed, more
than one hundred were injured.
The bombing provoked a huge wave of condemnations around the world. John
Major called the bombing an "evil act.Also the Irish government said it wanted "the cease-fire to be restored immediately." Bill Clinton
promised to do all he could to ensure that the enemies of peace did not
succeed. Gerry Adams stressed he had "no pre-knowledge" of the
After 17 months of peace, security was dramatically stepped up on the
British mainland and in Northern Ireland the army returned to the streets.
Very interesting details of the resumption of the IRA violence were
published by the Sunday Times. As the article suggests, "The
IRA was given an ultimatum by its own hard-liners: we bomb or we split. It
chose to bomb." It claims that the whole new offensive had been planed
for a long time, by hard-liners from the border regions of Northern Ireland.
The resumption of the bombing campaign may have been forced by the
determination, to avoid a split. The article also names the man the police
believe made the Docklands bomb (Ciaran Chambers) and members of the IRA army
council. The newspaper also speculated on whether Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams knew
about the preparations or not.
In the period after the Docklands bombing from the point of view of the
peace process. Both the British and the Irish governments stressed that it was
crucial to do everything possible to restart the process, and eventually, to
start multi-party talks. However, for long time they were not able to agree on
how to do this.
There were three main
options how to push the peace process ahead at this stage:
One of the possibilities, suggested by the SDLP leader John Hume, was a
referendum, to be simultaneously held in Northern Ireland and the Irish
Republic. The first question would have asked voters whether they disapproved
of violence for any purpose. Second, whether they wanted to see all parties to
start talks. Both questions would almost certainly produce a "yes"
verdict by a large majority. Results of such a referendum would -the SDLP
believed - help to push the peace process ahead.
2. Dayton-style proximity
The Irish government called for Dayton-style proximity talks, in which
all the parties would convene in one building for parallel sessions on the
model of the Dayton peace conference, leading to peace in Bosnia. The Irish
government strongly opposed an election for long time. The Taoiseach John
Bruton said an election - proposed by Unionists - would be "a
mistake" which would "pour petrol on the flames". He added that
proximity talks could restore the cease-fire. John Hume said elections would
lead to chaos and warned against "slamming the door" on Sinn Fein.
3. Elections to an assembly
The British government, however, insisted on its original plan for
elections to "give the electoral
mandates and confidence", which would lead to multi-party
negotiations. As analysts stressed, it was practically impossible for Major to
abandon this plan as its abandonment could be interpreted as a concession to
The negotiations took several weeks. The Irish Premier pushed for an
announcement of a fixed date for multi-party talks, because - he claimed - if
Sinn Fein was given a date, the IRA could consider a new cease-fire. John Major
was reluctant, stressing that it would show that terror paid off. In the end, a
compromise solution was reached: Dublin agreed with elections to set up an
assembly, London granted a firm date for multi-party talks - the concession
which Sinn Fein had demanded above all others in recent months.
Both Premiers agreed that an elective process would have to be broadly
acceptable and lead immediately, without further preconditions, to the
convening of all-party negotiations with acomprehensive agenda. They also made it sure that multi-party negotiations
would be convened on Monday 10 June 1996. Both Premiers repeated the demand
that the IRA had to resume its cease-fire before Sinn Fein was allowed to
participate in talks.
At this stage of the peace process especially
Sinn Fein and the IRA, scored one of the greatest victories of recent years,
proving that "violence pays off" and terror as "the only thing
London understands." The British government was forced by the renewal of
the bombing campaign of the IRA, to take decisive steps by setting up dates for
elections and peace talks.
Inching towards a deal and the build up to the God
multi-party negotiations began as planed Monday 10 June 1996 in Stromont,
Belfast. These talks involved the two Governments and Northern Ireland
political parties. The talks were chaired by Senator Mitchell, assisted by
former Finnish Prime Minister Mr Harri Holkeri and retired Canadian General
John de Chastelain. The following parties have been successful in a specially
convened election in May 1996: the UUP, DUP, SDLP, APNI, PUP, UDP, United
Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP), Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC) and
Labour, but excluding Sinn Fein. Sinn
Fein was excluded because of the absence of an Irish Republican Army
cease-fire. But they did not waste their time, exploding bombs in Manchester,
Dublin and Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, causing substantial damage.
Analysts could not agree on if this was the IRA’s way of protesting.
For the first
year they made little progress, as the decommissioning of arms issue continued
to dominate, and the peace-talks ended in July with agreements on procedures
for the talks, but without coming to terms with the use of arms. The forum met
for business again after a break for the summer, on Friday 6 September 1996,
and continued until the middle of December. If we should evaluate this year’s
progress from the peace process’ point of view, it was both an advance and a
setback going on. The optimism faded more and more in a year filled with
terror, but at the same time the all-party talks kept a hope of future peace
On Monday 13 January 1997 the all-party talks
resumed at Stromont following the Christmas break, but were on March 5
adjourned until June 3. This break was to allow the parties to contest the
forth-coming general elections in May. The Labour Party was elected to power in
the British General Election, and Tony Blair became Prime Minister. Later that
same month he paid a visit to Northern Ireland, and gave the “go ahead” for
exploratory contacts between government officials and Sinn Fein.
July was the month of positive progress, seen with the eyes of the peace
process. On Sunday 20 July 1997, following an approach from Gerry Adams, the
Irish Republican Army declared a renewal of its cease-fire. One month later
Marjorie Mowlam, then Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, announced that
the IRA cease-fire had been sufficiently well observed for Sinn Fein to enter
the multi-party talks for the first time. The week after, Sinn Fein signed up
to the Mitchell Principles and entered the all-party talks at Stromont. When
the talks broke for Christmas, the parties had failed to agree even on a list
of issues to be discussed. People living in Northern Ireland did not know what
do believe, nor if they could keep their optimism alive. Things went back and
forward with Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionist Party, being forced to conduct
oneself to each other.
eventually began on 24 September 1997, and continued until April 1998. Each
participant party presented its views and proposals on aspects of the agenda.
The Minister led the Irish Government delegation for Foreign Affairs, Mr David
Andrews TD and Minister of State, Ms Liz O’Donnell TD. On 12 January 1998 the
Governments published Propositions on
Heads of Agreement, which they presented as a basis for
discussion. This could have possibly offered the outline of an acceptable agreement,
and did help to focus the negotiations. On Monday 26 January 1998 the
multi-party talks switched venue from Stromont in Belfast to Lancaster House in
London in an attempt to inject impetus to the search for a political
settlement. On the second day of the talks at Lancaster House, the British and
Irish governments introduced a new discussion document on the proposed nature
of cross border bodies. While the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn
Fein welcomed the document, the Ulster Unionist Party rejected the proposals as
a move back to the Framework Document. The two governments said that it was up
to the parties to hammer out an agreement. Following the main session of the
day, Tony Blair went to Lancaster House in the evening to meet with all the
parties, and to urge them to engage each other and to reach a compromise.
Eventually, the independent chairmen set a deadline of 9 April 1998. In these
final and intensive negotiations the Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern TD, and the
British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair led their Governments’ delegations.
George Mitchell, independent chairman of the
multi-party talks, set a deadline of 9 April for the finding of an agreement
between the parties. A frantic activity reigned between the governments and the
parties inching the process forward. Marjorie Mowlam ended the day on an
optimistic note; saying progress had been made “on all fronts”. A major step
forward was taken on 10 April 1998. All the parties taking place in the
multi-party talks signed an agreement, The Good Friday Agreement. George
Mitchell brought the talks to an end.
In May, the Good Friday Agreement got a 94
percent majority at a referendum in Ireland. After the agreement, Ireland
renounced their territorial demands, and a prospective reuniting with Northern
Ireland would have to be settled by a majority on both sides.
The explosion in Omagh later that summer, where 29 people lost their
lives, shocked a whole world. This tightened the demand from all parts of the
conflict, that peace had to make its entrance as soon as possible. Two of the
most important persons fighting for the peace process in Northern Ireland, John
Hume and David Trimble, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 1998.
It is relatively easy to evaluate the year
1997. I wish I could use the word success, but there was still no complete
practical settlement. But we must not overshadow that the progress had taken
several major and positive steps forward. Few did ever imagine that Tony
Blair’s first year in power would be crowned by a political settlement in
Northern Ireland, and that he would devote more of his time to this Province,
an area offering little obvious reward, than any other issue. One of the most
important elements of US help to the peace process, was the assigning of George
Mitchell and a small staff. First as economic representative, then to chair the
decommissioning commission, and finally, to take over the chair of the peace
talks themselves. On the other side the Multi - party talks opened possibility
for further negotiations and introduced the Good Friday Agreement.
Good Friday Agreement 1998
On Friday, 10 April 1998 a comprehensive political agreement was
approved at a plenary session of the talks. The two Governments signed immediately
thereafter forming a new British-Irish Agreement committing them to give effect
to the provisions of this multi-party agreement.
It was 3.30pm in
Belfast, 10.30am in Washington DC. “Get me Bill Clinton,” said Tony Blair to
the two secretaries manning his tiny temporary office in Castle Buildings, the
venue for Irish peace talks. Minutes earlier, David Trimble, the Ulster
Unionist leader, had demanded from him a set of written assurances to save the
peace deal that had been hammered out over the past sleepless 30 hours.
There was strong dissent in Unionist ranks at the prospect of sitting
down in a proposed power- sharing administration with Sinn Fein, as looked as
though the IRA would be allowed to keep its arsenal of weapons and even resume
violence. The whole deal was about to collapse. Blair had been in contact with
Clinton since arriving in Belfast, now he told the president that it would be
“really helpful” if he could telephone not just Trimble, but also Bertie Ahern,
the Irish Prime Minister, John Hume and Gerry Adams. Clinton swung into action,
and phoned all four key players, saying that there was an “amazing deal” on the
table and urging them not to squander the prospect of peace. One after one,
following in Timbles footsteps, all those participating in the peace talks in the
6 counties had signed the agreement. It was at that moment that the historical
agreement between the British and Irish governments and the Nothern Ireland
parties was sealed, bringing the prospect of peace after 30 years of turmoil.
The Good Friday
(or Belfast) Agreement is in eleven sections. In the next paragraph I have
tried to abridge the actual agreement, and attempted to withdraw the key
Democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland (Strand
A new Assembly will
be elected by proportional representation, with executive and legislative
powers and safeguards to ensure that it operates on the basis of cross-
community support. Ministers will discharge executive authority, each supported
by a Committee with responsibility for devolved matters (e.g. Health,
Education, Social Services).
North/South Institutions (Strand Two)
Ministerial Council will be established, consisting of those with executive
authority in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, to consult, co-operate
and act within the island of Ireland on matters within their competence.
Members of the Council from North and South will act within the mandate of the
Assembly and the Irish Parliament respectively, and remain accountable to them.
Implementation bodies are to be established to carry out policy decisions of
the Council in a number of areas. These will be specified in discussions
between representatives of the Assembly and Irish Government before the
Assembly and the other new institutions take on actual powers. The necessary
legislation and other preparations will then be made for these bodies to be
established at or around the same time as the other institutions covered by the
British-Irish Institutions (Strand Three)
There is to be a new
British-Irish Council (BIC), comprising the British and Irish government, the
devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (when
established), the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The BIC will promote
consultation, co-operation and possibly joint decision-making on a wide range
of matters of common interest (e.g. transport, environment and culture). A new
British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference (BIIGC) will be established, to
replace the existing Inter-Governmental Conference. This will deal with all
bilateral issues between the British and Irish governments. The BIIGC will also
cover non-devolved Northern Ireland matters, on which the Irish Government may
want to put forward its ideas.
Constitution will be amended, abandoning the Republic’s territorial claim on
Northern Ireland and offering formal recognition that Northern Ireland is
legitimately part of the UK. The British Government too will introduce
constitutional change, repealing the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and
undertaking to bring forward legislation to create a united Ireland should that
ever be the wish of a majority in Northern Ireland.
Rights, Safeguards and Equality Issues
Convention on Human Rights will be incorporated into Northern Ireland. There
will be a new, independent Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission with wider
functions than the present Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. The
Irish Government will establish an equivalent Human Rights Commission in the
All parties are
committed to work in good faith with the Decommissioning Commission for total
disarmament of all paramilitary organisations within two years.
Policing and Justice
Commission will be established to make recommendations for future policing
arrangements in Northern Ireland. The Commission, which will include
international representation, will report by summer 1999. The British
Government will undertake a parallel wide-ranging review of the Northern
Ireland criminal justice system.
Both Governments will
put in place mechanisms to provide for release of prisoners affiliated with
organisations maintaining a complete and unequivocal cease-fire. The intention,
if circumstances permit, is to release any qualifying prisoners still in
custody two years after the scheme begins.
The Agreement’s two
fundamental principles are those of consent and of North South co-operation.
Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom is guaranteed unless a majority
of its people wants to change that status. At the same time the Agreement lays
the foundations for a new and deeper relationship between North and South, and
for a fresh start within Northern Ireland on the basis of partnership,
equality, mutual respect and mutual advantage.
The next step is for
a referendum in Northern Ireland, probably on Friday 22 May, on the Agreement -
and simultaneously in the Republic of Ireland on the amendments to the
Constitution. If these are passed there will then be elections to the new
Northern Ireland Assembly in June.
Reason for the success of the Good Friday
The Spirit of
optimism through out the World, especially in Ireland, proves that there must
have been something preposterous about this Agreement. To make such a drastic
change from the bloody veil of decades where heartache and injustice had seldom
had it’s day to reckon, to offering a glimmer of hope for peace at last is
somewhat a miracle. There are many different sides to explore when in understanding
the accomplishment of the Good Friday Agreement:
Important points are the leaders involved in the peace
Blair: Prime Minister of Great Britain, credited for not allowing
random acts of violence committed by radical nationalists groups to interfere
with the peace talks.
Senator Mitchell: Leader of Peace
Talks, unbiased negotiating skills a necessary part to maintaining
communication among different leaders throughout the talks.
Leader of the Protestant Unionist Party, became a rare voice of compromise and
flexibility in his party.
Adams: Leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, awarded the
Noble Peace Prize for his efforts in the Peace process.
Hume: Leader of the SDLP also awarded Noble Peace Prize for
his involvement in the peace process.
Aherm: Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, his ability to
convince the Irish people to give up Amendment 2 and 3 of their constitution,
therefore denouncing the nation’s claim on the Northern Ireland was an
instrumental compromise in the peace process
Ireland is also enjoying an economic boom. It
is like a country reformed. The old clericalism is being thrown off, replaced
by a modern, liberal state. Today’s Irish young loathe the uncouth bombers of a
America’s initiative in breaking the Northern
Irish logjam has paid off, despite the British Government’s once sour
objections. Gerry Adams now wears button-down collars to the peace talks.
The devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales
give Ulster the chance to escape form its old constitutional stagnation. Strong
regional government within the setting of the EU appeals to the Protestants and
Catholics alike. Tony Blair’s vast and disciplined majority in the House of
Commons means that there are no destabilising games to be played there by
Ulster’s political leaders – as there has been for the past century.
In his article “Peace in Northern Ireland, Why
Now?” John Stevens credits the success of the Good Friday Agreement to the
formation of the European Union. He claims that this peace agreement will
succeed where others have failed because of the new political and economic
environment created by the EU. According to Stevens, the Irish economy has
flourished because of increased trade created to the EU and because of
agricultural subsidies granted to the Irish Republican from Belgium. Therefor
there is broad support for the EU in the Republican of Ireland. ON the other
hand, Great Britain was more reluctant to become part of the EU. Therefor it made
economic sense for Northern Ireland to open political communication with the
Republic of Ireland in order to reap the benefits of the EU.
Stevens also claims that the EU has made
borders much less significant in all of Europe, including the division between
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The religious conflicts, which
maintain the division between the Catholics and the Protestants, are becoming
secondary as both Catholics and Protestants realise the economic and strategic
benefits of a united Europe.
A year and a half without
The Good Friday Agreement was greeted with great optimism across the
island of Ireland. The vast majority of people endorsed it in referenda on both
sides of the border, because they wanted to see peace and political change in
the six Counties. In the referendums held on 22 May 1998, the people of
Ireland, both North and South, overwhelmingly endorsed the Good Friday
Agreement. In Northern Ireland, 71.1 per cent of the people voted to approve
the Agreement. In the South, 94.4 per cent of the people voted to allow the
Government become party to the Agreement. The combined Yes vote in both parts
of Ireland was 85 per cent. This was the first occasion since 1918 on which all
the people in Ireland had voted together to decide their political future. But
still their hopes have yet to be realised.
Following the approval of the people,
the two Governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland began the
long and detailed task of implementing the Agreement and setting up the
institutions for which it provides. Elections took place for the new Northern
Ireland Assembly on 25 June 1998. The Assembly, in which pro-Agreement parties
hold most of the seats, subsequently met on 1 July 1998 and elected Mr David
Trimble of the UUP as First Minister and Mr Seamus Mallon of the SDLP as Deputy
The autumn was
dominated by efforts to achieve the full implementation of the Agreement.
Legislation implementing the constitutional, institutional and human rights aspects
of the Agreement was introduced and passed by the Irish and British
Parliaments. The accelerated prison release programme began in September and by
January 1999 over half of the prisoners were released. The British authorities
began the process of security normalisation, gradually removing security
installations and scaling down the army presence on the ground. The Northern
Ireland Police Commission began its work and undertook a wide-ranging
Unfortunately, by the looks of things now, the
Agreement has turned out to be – not unlike the better known Good Friday – an
anti climax. While IRA guns have been silent, the nationalist people have
continued to face assassination, bomb attacks, church burnings, lynch mobs and
attacks on their own homes. The RUC remains intact, fully armed and as
sectarian a threat to nationalists as ever. It was anticipated that the various
institutions would assume their full powers in March 1999, but continued
difficulties relate to the decommissioning issue.
Nationalists in Belfast, South Armagh, and
numerous other areas across the North continue to live under the shadow of
massive British military installations and face daily intrusions into their
lives by the armed representatives of the British State in Ireland.
All this was supposed to be put behind Ireland
with the Good Friday Agreement and the dawn of peace, progress and power
sharing between nationalists on the basis of equality. It was supposed to be an
inclusive process where vetos are removed. But it has not been so.
Factors which threaten the Good
are many reasons to why the GFA has not lived up to peoples’ expectations.
Unfortunately people have yet again been let down. In the months since, we have
seen hard facts of life emerging. Issues such as prisoner release and Sinn Fein
in the executive (in Government) have been very hard to take for a protestant
population that perceived 30 years of violence as being directed at them.
Society is now seeing what 30 years of trouble has done to it. It is vital that
this point be understood. Here are some important factors that, do as well,
threaten the GFA:
Radical Unionists Groups who oppose the GFA
Many unionists fear that the Irish government
will use the new assemblies established by the GFA to eventually unify Northern
Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
also fear continued IRA violence, as the group has yet to fully decommission
its weapons despite pressure from Tony Blair.
Unionists are concerned about the fate of Northern Ireland as the
growing Catholic population threatens the protestant majority. The GFA
legitimated the policy o allowing the majority to determine the sovereignty of
Northern Ireland made in the Anglo – Irish Agreement. In the 1920’s Catholics
made up 30% of the population of N.I. According to 1991 cencus, Catholics are
now 40 % of population and this number is quickly increasing, therefor it is
not unreasonable for unionists to be concerned with the fate of N.I. if and
when they no longer are the majority of the population.
Recent Real IRA violence
The RIRA is a
breakaway faction of the IRA whose members are dissatisfied with the IRA’s
compromises in the peace talks. The RIRA does not support Gerry Adams because
Adams did not insist that Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of
Ireland during the talks. In the recent RIRA bombing of a crowded shopping
street 28 people were killed and then more recently three young boys were burnt
to death in their house, leaving the peace settlement in a precarious position.
However, both Catholics and Protestants alike were outraged by the bombings and
there was strong public sentiment that the considerable support shown for the
GFA in May referendum left no justification for continued violence. However,
only future violent efforts by the RIRA could potentially limit the progress
towards peace gained by the agreement.
By looking only at recent British newspapers,
the set back for Northern Irelands peace is turning out to be worse than people
thought it would be.
From “The Herald”, Monday, 4 October,
the headline read “Little hope of progress in peace talks”. The article talked
about how Ulster Unionists’ and Sinn Fein’s conceded chances of an quick
breakthrough in the peace process were slim as their leader, Mr Trimble and Mr
Adams, prepared to meet again. Mr Trimble still wants the IRA “to guarantee to
give up its arms before he will contemplate sitting in Government with its
political wing, Sinn Fein”. It is understood that Mr Trimble would only enter an
administration on an “all or nothing” basis, while on the other side Sinn Fein
chairman Mitchel McLaughlin dismissed Mr Trimble’s statement as “word play” and
admitted thing were not looking hopeful at present.
this day, there does not seem to be very much progress around the GFA. The
Agreement looks as though it might just turn out to be, a slightly larger,
reminder that some people do care about the future of Ireland, and that they
did the best that they could to improve the situation there.
Suggestions for maintaining
peace in Northern Ireland
Obviously I am not surprised by the difficulties negotiators are facing.
They need prayer and encouragement. But they must show courage.
The problem here is
lack of trust; Unionists don’t trust Republicans and vice versa. The art of
negotiation, as of politics, is “the possible”. Trimble has limited grounds for
manoeuvre; and so has Adams. Unionists don’t recognise how far the Republicans
have already come. Republicans must recognise the genuine depth of Unionists’
fears for the future.
The way I see it,
there are always ways to fix a problem. And I think that it is vital for the
peace process, that all involved try to come to a solution for the problems
that recently have occurred, and at that as soon as possible. Of course the
Good Friday Agreement was not going to bring peace to Ireland at once. It was
known that it would take time to solve such an expansive predicament, and I
know that the real battle of hearts and minds lay ahead.
There are many apexes
that must be taken to account to maintain the peace Agreement; here are some
that I believe are important:
British and Irish government must continue to
pressure the IRA to decommission weapons to decrease the likelihood of future
Leaders cannot allow isolated incidents of
violence committed by radical groups interfere with more moderate groups’
involvement in the peace process.
All involved in the peace process cannot expect
violence to end overnight. They can only expect a decrease in the violence acts
committed in the near future.
Leaders of Sinn Fein and the Unionists groups
must be able to convince their supporters that they can achieve political
equality in power-sharing system in order to prevent losing support to more
Radical groups must be kept in an unarmed
The Prime Minister of Great Britain and the
Republic of Ireland must continue to be committed to the peace process. They
are their own and the people of Ireland most vital hope.
Social Reforms in Northern Ireland must
continue to remedy economic discrimination against Catholics.
Will the Good Friday Agreement bring peace to
The Good Friday
Agreement is far from a perfect solution for all the people of Northern
Ireland, but it is a step in the right direction. It is positive step towards a
possible future of peace and prosperity for all in hope of a settlement. I
firmly believe that the agreement represents the best chance for peace and
reconciliation in Ireland in our lifetimes. To reach a written agreement
between most of the parties in Northern Ireland as well as the Irish and
British government was a historical breakthrough. It has taken considerable
courage on the part of all concerned in the peace talks to work together to
produce this historic agreement – those who played key roles in the process
should be congratulated. Its overwhelming endorsement shown in referenda north
and south of the border confirmed the enormous strength of the desire for peace
and reconciliation among the overwhelming majority of people living in Ireland.
But it was always
clear that the challenges involved in implementing the Agreement would be as
great, or even greater, than the difficulties of reaching agreement in the
first place. Looking back at the first year and a half of the Agreement that
has certainly proven to be the case. One and a half years on there is still
enormous frustration that once one obstacle is overcome, another emerges.
The only way to
deal with the situation is to stick to the letter of agreement, because that is
what each party signed up to and what the Irish people endorsed. When they
signed up, every party accepted compromises. To permit any party to re-write
parts of the Agreement would de-value the entire document and allow all sides
to claim the right to reject those parts of it which they find least palatable.
That would be a recipe for disaster. Under the terms of the Agreement, in the
final analysis, it is the British and Irish Governments who have the power to
ensure that the Agreement is implemented. They may well have to use power.
One of the most
important things we can learn from the past months is that everyone who wants
the GFA to succeed must make their voices heard. Success will not come
automatically. The elements that want to wreck the GFA are hard at work. Every
failure to meet the timetables set out a year and a half ago encourages them.
This is why supporters of the Agreement in Ireland need to understand that
every single one of them plays a role in helping make the Agreement work and
maintaining the momentum of the peace progress. It is important to focus on
what can be done here to bring some reality to the movement behind the
In the first
instance that requires showing the enormous goodwill that exists for the peace
progress and the implementation of the Agreement in Ireland. Secondly it means
mobilising that good will to assist maintaining the momentum of the peace
process. Every individual and organisation – the trade unions, Irish community groups,
woman’s organisations, actors, writers, academics, lawyers, artists, political
activists – has a part to play.
Now it is time
for all those who stand for peace and reconciliation in Ireland to come
together in support of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. If
they are to lose heart, just remember how far we have come. The danger will
always be that they could slip back, and if they did, it would take at least a
generation if they were to clime back up again. Although I believe that they
will “go to the wire”, I remain optimistic that they will find a breakthrough.
All politicians need is time and support, and hopefully they will for one and
for all solve the suffering.
Will there ever be peace in Ireland?
Will there finally be peace after several
centuries filled with violence? It looks like the conflict is moving towards a
future without shooting and bombing, and after the Omagh-explosion there has
not been one single murder committed. But during the last 25 years, more than 3200
human beings have lost their lives and that should be “enough”! As word has it,
each inhabitant of Northern Ireland has been either affected themselves by the
violence or has lost a member of their family. All though 1999 has been a
peaceful year there are still several political questions that have to reach a
settlement or at least an answer. One of the most important decisions, which
have to be settled, is the composition of a joint government. The Protestants
demand that the IRA weapons have to be decommissioned. The Catholics mean that
a government has to be settled first.
So near, and yet so far. The peace process in
Northern Ireland is mired in its most difficult phase yet. There is one kind of
peace, but it is an armed one, controlled by weapons. It might have seemed
strange to certain that John Hume and David Trimble received an award for a
running race, which still has not seen an end. The paramilitary part is over,
but the politics have just started.
As David McKittrick of the Independent wrote: “And the peace process, which has so often
seemed so defunct, somehow moves mysteriously on, in a way no one really fully
understands, full of surprises, keeping hope alive that a lasting peace can be