The Good Friday Agreement

The Troubles were brought to an end by The Good Friday Agreement which was signed in 1998 and set up the system of government that Northern Ireland enjoys today. It has two connected documents:

  1. An agreement between most of Northern Ireland’s political parties.
  2. An international agreement between the British and Irish governments.

The agreement is complex, but can be broken into three sections, or ‘strands’.

  1. The system of government of Northern Ireland within the UK.
  2. The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  3. The relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

The key features of the Good Friday Agreement are:

  • the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive which is the Northern Ireland government;
  • devolved, power-sharing government in Northern Ireland – the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive have legislative powers to make decision on local issues;
  • principle of consent - people in the north and south of Ireland can decide in a referendum whether to remain part of the UK or for a united Ireland;
  • the right to hold both British and Irish citizenship;
  • safeguards for human rights and equality such as new institutions to protect people’s human rights and promote equality. These include the Equality Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), and the Office of the Police Ombudsman;
  • recognition of linguistic diversity and promotion of Irish and Ulster Scots;
  • proposed the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive which is the Northern Ireland government.