- The US President Joe Biden is going to visit Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Good Friday Agreement
- The Good Friday Agreement was signed on April 10, 1998, between factions of Northern Ireland, and the governments of Britain and Ireland.
- It ended 30 years of the violence known as ‘The Troubles’, has been hailed as a model deal to end long-standing conflicts, and fetched a joint Nobel peace prize for David Trimble and John Hume, then leaders of the two opposing parties in Northern Ireland.
- It was signed to end decades of violence in Northern Ireland among those who wished to remain with the United Kingdom (UK) and those who wanted to join Ireland.
What were The Troubles?
- Northern Ireland was created in May 1921 by partitioning Ireland, and consists of the six northeastern counties of the island.
- In 1922, the rest of Ireland gained independence from the British (today’s Republic of Ireland, with its capital in Dublin). Northern Ireland remained with the United Kingdom, but tensions simmered between the side loyal to the Crown, mostly Protestants, and the faction wanting to join the Republic, mostly Catholics.
- By the 1960s, the Protestants had become more powerful and the Catholics started facing discrimination.
- The violence erupted between both factions – The Troubles, claiming the lives of more than 3,500 people.
What were the terms of the Good Friday Agreement?
- Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK, but could join Ireland if, in a referendum, a majority of people on both sides voted for it.
- People born in Northern Ireland could have Irish or British nationality or both.
- Northern Ireland would get a new government, which would have powers over local matters, while the UK government would look after security, foreign policy, tax laws, immigration rules, etc.
- On May 22 1998, a referendum was held in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the agreement was approved by 94% of voters in Ireland and 71% in Northern Ireland.
What is the status 25 years on?
- The most important achievement of the Good Friday Agreement has been an end to bloodshed and enduring peace in the region.
- Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works. Ireland has been paralysed for more than a year.
- Britain’s intelligence agency (MI5), recently increased the threat level in Northern Ireland from domestic terrorism to “severe”.
- Several pro-Union political parties in N. Ireland (like the DUP) started boycotting the agreement.
- To solve this crisis, the UK and the EU recently reached an agreement known as the Windsor Framework.
Why is the US so enthusiastic about the Agreement?
- The US had played a key part in negotiations building up to the agreement.
- The USA’s current President (Biden) is descended from Irish immigrants (second after John F Kennedy) and is vocally proud of his Irish heritage.