Good Friday Agreement 25th anniversary - what is it, what does it say and how has Brexit affected it?
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The Good Friday Agreement will mark its 25th anniversary this year. The deal will be commemorated by leaders across the globe including a visit from US President Joe Biden who will visit the country to mark the anniversary.
The historic deal brought an end to 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles when it was signed on April 10 in 1998 and has continued to be an integral part of life in Northern Ireland from its political institutions to its relationship with the UK.
Northern Ireland was created in 1921 and remained part of the UK when the rest of Ireland became an independent state. This created a divide with the population split between unionists who wanted NI to stay within the UK and nationalists, who wanted NI to be part of the Republic of Ireland.
This division caused mass conflict and, from the 1960’s, armed groups from both sides carried out bombings and shootings, including groups such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). This conflict led to British Troops being sent to NI.
Despite the Good Friday Agreement having been in place for more than two decades, Brexit has brought it into question as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU Country, the Republic of Ireland.
So, what is the Good Friday Agreement, and what does it say? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Good Friday Agreement?
The Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, is a political deal which aimed to bring an end to decades of violent conflict in Northern Ireland. The April 10, 1998 signing was approved by public votes from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
What does the Good Friday Agreement say?
The Good Friday Agreement is based on cooperation. The deal set up a new government for Northern Ireland, one which has the interests of nationalist and unionists at its heart. The Westminster government gave this government control over key areas such as health and education, known as devolution.
Respect for people’s rights is another part of the agreement, which protects everyone no matter what part of the community they come from.
- Northern Ireland is part of the UK and this can change only through a referendum - if most people in Northern Ireland want it to
- People born in Northern Ireland can have Irish or British nationality or both
As part of the agreement:
- Armed groups agreed to dispose of their weapons
- People who had been involved in violence were released from prison
- The UK government agreed to aim for "normal security arrangements" - including the scaling back of the British military presence
How has the Good Friday Agreement been affected by Brexit?
When Brexit went through it was established that checks would be required on goods transported between the UK and the EU’s markets. Something both sides of the Irish border said should not happen in order to protect the Good Friday Agreement, with many believing the cross-border cooperation could be threatened if new checkpoints were set up.
During the Troubles, people crossing the border were subject to British Army security checks and surveillance watchtowers were placed on hilltops. Although the agreement does not specifically refer to the border, it does mention removing all security installations.