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16 October 2014
A State Apart

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A State Apart
The Good Friday Agreement
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The Agreement
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The IRA rejected the Agreement stating it was not a valid expression of self-determination. However, it did not call for a No vote in the referendum and supported the Sinn Féin position. The second largest Unionist Party, Ian Paisley's DUP described the Agreement as "treacherous" and voted against it in the referendum yet the party plays an active part in the Assembly and its committees and has two ministers in the Executive.

The Good Friday Agreement represents the most significant shift in party political positions since the partition of Ireland in 1921. For the first time in the history of the Troubles the British and Irish governments have radically addressed the conflict over opposing nationalisms by providing a framework within which the principle of consent will decide any future constitutional change.

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Key Newspaper Articles
The IRA's response
The political architecture of the Agreement is complex; it has been designed to transform a violent war over national self-determination into a political conflict where negotiation rather than the gun is the final arbiter. Political scientist Brendan O'Leary believes the Agreement is based on Arend Lijphart's concept of consociationalism with the added dimension of federal and confederal institutions. A consociation is an association of communities arrived at by a political agreement, and in the case of Northern Ireland, between British unionists, Irish nationalists and others. Other academics are critical of the consociational model.  
Key Academic Opinions
The nature of the Agreement
Paths to peace
Image of United Unionists opposed to the agreement
United Unionists opposed to the agreement
Parties opposed to the Agreement reject the consociational model on two grounds: enforced power-sharing is anti-democratic and will not work and cross-border co-operation undermines British sovereignty.
Key Academic Opinions
Constructive ambiguity
The SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon described the Agreement as "Sunningdale for slow learners". This was a reference to the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, an earlier cross-community political settlement that lasted only five months.  
Key Academic Opinions
Sunningdale and Belfast compared
Although there are structural similarities between the two, the Good Friday Agreement is a more complex document. It deals with opposing claims to sovereignty and provides unionists and nationalists with equivalent rights of self-determination. People living in Northern Ireland can choose to be British, Irish or both.  
Key Academic Opinions
Double protection and co-sovereignty
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