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16 October 2014
A State Apart

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The Good Friday Agreement

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The Belfast Agreement, Sovereignty and the State of the Union.

The Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Act of Union

(33) See, e.g. ex p. Molyneaux [1986] 1 W.L.R. 331 for arguments relating to the compatibility of the Anglo-Irish Agreement 1986 and article 6 of the Act of Union.

(34) In the referendum. 81 per cent of the electorate in Northern Ireland voted. 71.12 per cent (676,966 votes) voted in favour of the Agreement and 28.88 per cent (274,879 votes) voted against. On a more specific point of contrast, concerning s.35 of the Scotland Act, as the White Paper on Scottish devolution made no mention of the principle in s.35 it cannot be argued that this specific point has a direct electoral mandate.

(35) The principle behind the "triple lock" is that any settlement reached in negotiations between the British and Irish Governments and the political parties should be negotiated/agreed and not imposed, and should, therefore, receive the support of the parties to the negotiations and be endorsed also by the people of Northern Ireland and the Westminster Parliament. It was also, in addition, approved by the Irish Government and Parliament and by the people of the Irish Republic voting in a referendum also held on May 22, 1998.

(36) The long title to the Act states that it makes "provision for the government of Northern Ireland for the purpose of implementing the agreement reached at multi-party talks on Northern Ireland set out in Command Paper 3883", i.e. the Belfast Agreement. Should a case arise concerning implied repeal of provisions of the Act of Union other than those considered here, then the argument concerning the impact of s.2 of the 1998 Act would (in the absence of the "mandate of the people" argument) have to concentrate more closely upon a resolution of the differences in the dicta of Viscount Dilhorne and Lord Wilberforce in the Irish Peers case, within the factual context before the court.

(37) At the election, the UUP won 28 seats (from September 21, 1998 they formed the UU Assembly Party). The DUP, UKUP and three independents are all anti-Agreement and thus in the Unionist camp muster the same number of seats as the UUP which has effectively partially split on the Agreement. The two PUP Assembly members are pro-Agreement.

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