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Critical Analysis of the Good Friday Agreement

Seamus Duffy
25 April 2008

Assignment Submitted in fulfilment of the Societies in Transition course to

Module Coordinator during the 2nd semester of Masters in Humanitarian Action
Programme 2007/2008, UCD School of Biological Science

The Northern Ireland conflict spanned 30 years and ended with the Good Friday Agreement
(hereafter referred to as Agreement) in 1998. The Agreement laid the framework for Northern
Ireland to move forward from hatred and violence to reconciliation, peace and development.
Yet, the Agreement proved to be controversial, as there were conflicting views regarding its
long term effectiveness.

There were some that applauded the Agreement as opportunity for Northern Ireland to build a
closer relationship between Ireland and U.K. Others saw it confirming the status of Northern
Ireland as part of Union. Why are there so many different interpretations of the Agreement?
How does the Agreement address and resolve the underling roots of conflicts? How is the
Agreement formed between all actors? How does the Agreement influence Northern Ireland
society to transform from conflicts to peace and reconciliation? How does the implementation
of the Agreement affect the different levels of the population in politics, economy and
culture? Ten years after the deployment of the Good Friday Agreement, these questions still
remain unanswered. In order to critically analyze the Agreement, one must first fully
understand the context in which the Agreement was formed as well as what influence the
Agreement had on the transitional society (Cain, 1968 to present).

In this study a brief geographical overview of the conflicted area will be provided, along with
a historical outline of the events leading up to the Good Friday Agreement. A summary of the
Agreement and its tenets will be addressed, as well as the reaction of the Irish Republican
Army (IRA) to the deployment of the Agreement. Finally, a critical analysis of the Agreement
will be given through a descriptive conceptual framework based on the triangle theory and
the model of influence. The perspectives of the international, regional, national, local and
community levels will be included in the analysis. The paper will conclude with a summary
of the findings. The research methods used for this study include: documentary analysis,
participatory observation and meetings with key informants during the 2008 UCD academic
trip to Northern Ireland (R.o.S.A South Armagh).

Ireland Divided
Northern Ireland is situated in the northeast of Ireland Island comprising a sixth of the
island’s total area (see Fig 1). Northern Island covers 13,466 km2 and has a population of
approximately 1,660,516 people (Table 1). It consists of six counties: Antrim, Armagh,
Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone.

Northern Ireland

County Area Population

Antrim 2,844 km2 566,000

Armagh 1,254 km2 141,000

Down 2,448 km2 516,000

Fermanagh 1,691 km2 58,000

Londonderry 2,074 km2 213,000

Tyrone 3,155 km2 166,516

13,466 km2 1,660,516

Table 1 Geographical and population comparison of the six counties in Northern Ireland

Figure 1 Map of Ireland Island

History of the Conflict

Irish and British histories have been linked for over 800 years. Colonial aspirations and
security risks of Great Britain and the cultural resilience and strength of Ireland clashed at
many times throughout the past eight centuries, reaching a crescendo 300 years soon after the
defeat of the Spanish Armanda and subsequent British colonial rule of the island of Ireland.
The British practice of plantations lead to a cultural mixing in what would become Northern
Ireland. Through the transfer of land ownership to loyal subjects immigrating into Ulster,
Queen Elizabeth I’s government laid the foundations of overcoming the strongly independent
and often difficult Northern Ireland Celtic population through the control of resources and
high numbers of their army. The strategic positioning of different cultural groups in direct
conflict would lead to years of strife where tension was constant and the potential for
violence lay right beneath the surface of everyday life.

When Irish nationalism took rise in the eighteenth century, inspired by the American War of
Independence and the French Revolution, the indigenous population of Ireland hoped for
national freedom and an end to colonization much like many other parts of the world did at
that time in history. Through the work of leaders including Daniel O’Connell, John Stuart
Parnell, Podrick Pearse, Michael Collins and finally Eamond De Valera, the Republic of
Ireland gained its freedom after the war of independence in 1922 and so broke away from the
United Kingdom.

However the Irish republican movement would be frustrated due to the strength and numbers
of the citizens of Northern Ireland, who were loyal to the crown of Britain. The Anglo-Irish
treaty after the war of Independence was signed on December 6, 1921 and was then ratified
in 1922, giving 26 counties of Ireland independence; yet separating six predominantly
Protestant Ulster counties which would decide to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The Boundary Commission that was set up by the British to decide the division of Ireland has
been the source of great controversy at the time and remains so today. The Ulster Unionists
were a highly organized majority living inside a predominately Roman Catholic colonial
Ireland. They feared living in a country loyal to a foreign Pope as they saw it and through
political organization and social engineering, put in place the mechanisms required to remain
part of the British Kingdom. Gerry-manning, the act of dividing county or district lines along
social and cultural lines for political gain and control, led to the creation of local Protestant
majorities inside the dominantly Catholic isle. From the nine counties of Ulster, six
Protestant counties were divided from the rest of Ireland so that six countries would remain
with the crown.
This created a complicated and tense society, divided not only along religious lines but also
economic lines. Discrimination was rampant and as frustrated Independent Republican
desires clashed with deep seeded Loyalist fears made for a national time bomb due to the
significant divisions in individual desires. Overlapping of these divisions created a fragile,
multifaceted situation. (Calvocoressi,1982).

Despite the tension, there was relative peace in Northern Ireland for almost a half century
following the division of North from South. But spurred on by the zeitgeist of the time, civil
rights movements in the Catholic parts of the six countries began in 1969. Quickly the
peaceful protests following the model seen at the time throughout the world attracted
backlashes from the outraged Protestant population and the British army stepped in to
mitigate the risk of violence. Unfortunately instead, they fanned the flames of Irish
nationalism as they had in the Easter Rising of 1916. The Irish Republican Army (IRA),
which had remained loosely associated since the Republic Independence movement in the
1920’s, elected to engage what they termed ‘the forces of occupation’ in combat the ‘Royal
Ulster Constabulary,’ formed in 1922 by the British. By 1970, the Official Irish Republican
Army split along ideological lines as part decided to abandon violence in favour of socialist
and Marxist propaganda. The other part, which was renamed the Provisional IRA, stuck to
the policy of achieving a United Ireland by forcible removal of the British troops (Royal
Ulster Constabulary, 1921-2001).

As the years of violence continued, some in the Nationalist community, came to realize not
only would ultimate military victory being very costly and perhaps impossible, but that
perhaps the British presence was not the problem, in that the border was only in place at the
persistence of the Ulster Unionist people. The Nationalists realized that Irish unity would
only come about if there was mutual acceptance and respect between the Protestants and the
Catholics. It became clear that the real border was not geographical, in reality it was created
in the minds of the people.

The Republic of Ireland would play an increasingly important role in the development of the
peace process. Ireland’s equal footing with Britain as a member of the EU gave the Irish
government confidence, a new self image and far greater confidence in discussions with their
former colonizers. The former Fine Gael leader and Irish Prime Minister Garrett FitzGerald
and established the ‘New Ireland Forum’; an institute consisting of representatives from the
main constitutional nationalist political parties. A policy institutive was put forth outlining
three constitutional options for Ireland to discuss with the British: a united Irish republic
comprised of all 32 counties on the island, a cooperative dual state Ireland or joint authority
by Ireland and the UK over Northern Ireland (Patterson, 2007). Options were to be achieved
in peaceful manner and by consent of the Irish and Unionist people. The British Prime
Minister, Margaret Thatcher rejected all three options as proposed. Thatcher was unwilling to
believe that British sovereignty over Northern Ireland was at risk but was gravely concerned
about the situation in Northern Ireland now which was well into its second decade (Northern
Ireland Office, 1985).

Thatcher looked to the Ulster Unionists, the political leaders in Northern Ireland, for more
cooperation in the intelligence (M.15-M I6), security and judicial systems. She realized that
Northern Ireland was the only place in the world where British soldiers were losing their
lives. Thatcher recognized that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, it could be
called into question whether the British government was responsible for murdering its own

In November 1985, after considerable negotiation, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by
Prime Minister Thatcher and the Taoiseach FitzGerald. The Irish Republic now for the first
time in history had a say in the running of the six counties in Northern Ireland. Thatcher’s
reward was a guarantee for improved security support for those that live in the North and for
those that visited that area. (Patterson, 2007)

The governments of Britain and Ireland were throughout the process the most important
international players in the Northern Ireland context and their involvement gave much greater
confidence to Loyalists on their side, and Republicans on the other, that some resolution
could be found. The agreement between the two states and their subsequent cooperative
efforts were highly significant in their ability to achieve success in the long march towards
peace. During the conflict different British governments tried various ways to manage and
contain the conflict. Starting as early as 1972, both British and Irish governments had
engaged in secret talks starting with the Provisional IRA to try to move a peace process
forward. Martin Mc Guinness was one of the first to lead a delegation to London as part of
this effort. (Provisional IRA campaign 1969-1997).
Even though the Anglo-Irish Agreement was rejected by the Unionist parties, it did show
them that there would be an ongoing dialogue about peace and that a door was left open for
other views that may lead to a political settlement. Equally in the Republic of Ireland, it was
recognized that the dialogue that had taken place was helpful, in that the Anglo-Irish
Agreement of 1985 gave the Republic of Ireland government a consultative role in the
political affairs of Northern Ireland for the first time. The Agreement also brought the
problems of the conflict in Northern Ireland into a new international debate with other world
powers. The United States of America and the Canadian government started to play their part
to help deliver peace.

In February 1993 the Downing Street Declaration was published by the British and Irish
governments. In this legal document individual positions were laid out on Northern Ireland
and the issues that may arise in any political settlement. The declaration detailed the basics
principles that could create the conditions for an IRA ceasefire (Mulcahey, 2006). Intense
negotiations followed between church leaders Father Denis Fall and Gerry Adams, also
known for his role as the head of the Sinn Fein party and also with the leader of the Ulster
Unionist Party, David Trimble. The former British Prime Minister John Major, American
Senator George Mitchell, and especially President Clinton of the United States also played
significant roles (Northern Ireland Office, 1998).

The Downing Street Declaration offered incentives to the Republicans by putting an end to
the release of political prisoners, banishment from the airwaves in the Republic, and an Irish
version of a proposed Anglo-Irish Framework which would provide a ‘dynamic’ set of North-
South institutions that Republicans could visualize as ‘transitional’ to a united Ireland. Irish
Prime Minister Reynolds made it clear to Gerry Adams (see Fig 2), that there had to be a
permanent end to the conflict in the Northern Ireland.

Figure 2 Photograph of Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein party

Due to discussion within the Irish Republican Army, on 31 August, 1994, the IRA announced
‘a complete cessation of military operations’. As Volunteer Pat Thompson, Second Battalion,
South Armagh, PIRA, stated, “It was a hard pill to swallow”. Six weeks later, on 13 October
1994, the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC), a body representing the main
loyalist paramilitary organizations, also called for a ceasefire which was implemented by
their command structure.

The persuasion and support of both the British and Irish government was to be an important
factor in the final founding of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Leading up to this point, the
election of Bertie Ahern in Ireland and Tony Blair in the UK had a profound effect on the
peace process. The new leadership in Ireland and in the UK shared a focus on pragmatic
action and were not afraid of taking a stand on this important regional issue. The mutual
respect shown by both leaders for one another gave a strong example for their Northern Irish
counterparts, struggling to find grounds for cooperation. Ahern’s involvement was even more
critical as the Agreement could only be agreed upon with a yes vote in Ireland to change
articles 2 and 3 in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, one of the keystones to the Unionists
acceptance of the deal and a piece of legal masterwork by Byrne (Byrne, 2008).

However, the fact that it was not until the summer of 1994, nine years after the signing of the
Anglo-Irish Agreement that the IRA announced the cessation of violence, speaks to the
difficulty involved in moving the two sides towards one another. Finally, Gerry Adams, the
leader of Sinn Fein, the political branch of the IRA, announced a retraction of violence on
behalf of the Provisional IRA. Events that followed led to the IRA’s disengagement from the
armed struggle and its entrance into a peaceful political process (Sinn Fein 2003).

Figure 3 Photograph entitled: The IRA terrorist: a thing of the past?

An Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) body was set up in

August 1997 to monitor the disarmament process and verify the disposal of arms (see Fig 3).
The committee was chaired by former United States Senator George Mitchell, and also
included former Finnish brigadier, Tauno Nieminen and Canadian General, John de
Chastelain. The IICD later confirmed that the Provisional Irish Army had fully
decommissioned its armaments and submitted them to the British and Irish governments.

In September 1997, Sinn Fein confirmed its pledge to the Mitchell principles of democracy
and for non-violence; however, the Unionists remained unimpressed. The Mitchell principles
were named after American Senator George Mitchell (see Figure 4) who chaired the political
talks in the negotiating process that led to the Downing Street Declaration. Mitchell stated
that the asset he brought to the table was more than any other, and that his patience, would be
tested repeatedly throughout the peace process. They included the total disarmament of all
paramilitary organizations and also called for an end of punishment in relation to killings and
beating, with-in the republican areas.

Figure 4 Picture of Senator George Mitchell

Finally, the deadlock was broken as the parties’ concerned finalized a deal opening the way to
peace talks. In October 1997, for the first time in history, Ulster Unionists, Nationalists and
Republicans came together to openly discuss a viable solution for the Northern Ireland
conflict this led to the signature of the historic Good Friday Agreement in April 1998, which
was the plan for the all-inclusive political settlement. The discussions took place all through
the evening of Holy Thursday and were coordinated by Mitchell along with Irish Attorney
General David Byrne. Sensing a chance to end the conflict and underlining the importance
that the situation had achieve in the international community, US President Bill Clinton
would call the negotiating delegation six times that evening, supporting them to find ways to
resolve their differences on key issues. After 30 years, it appeared as though the conflict was
finally over. Ratification in Northern Ireland and the modification of articles two and three of
the Republic of Ireland’s constitution to remove its claim to the whole of the Island of Ireland
were the final steps in creating a political and legal skeleton on which local leaders could
painstakingly build true peace in Northern Ireland over the last ten years.
The Good Friday Agreement

In the 1990’s, both Unionists and Nationalist, ‘conflict fatigue’ set in and the economic
prosperity of the Republic of Ireland to the south, which had been poorer for centuries,
reminded people of the benefits that peace could bring. Despite the grounds for hopefulness
after the summer of 1994 a cessation of violence was delivered by the IRA it still took a
further four years to reach agreement. Subsequent political negotiations on a permanent
ceasefire and the decommissioning of the weapon arsenal of the paramilitary groups stalled.
In April 1998, the negotiators produced the Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good
Friday Agreement (Mulcahy, 2006).

The Good Friday Agreement provided a blueprint for a lasting political settlement. The pillar
supporting this was from the nationalists’ point of view in that the unification of the north and
south of Ireland would come about, if the majority of the Northern Irish population gave their
consent for renunciation of the Island of Ireland. This was to be by exclusively peaceful and
democratic means only.

The agreement proposed an elected assembly in Northern Ireland; to encourage devolution

which is the statutory for granting of powers from the assembly of a the state to the Northern
Ireland government at national, regional, or local level. On 10 May 1998, the agreement was
ratified in a separate referendum in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

The tenets of the Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement is comprised of three strands. In Strand one, the agreement
provides for a democratically elected Assembly in Northern Ireland which is inclusive in its
membership, capable of exercising executive and legislative authority, and subject to
safeguards to protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community. The agreement
also defines the conflict in terms of a divide between unionist and nationalist identities,
people viewed themselves as Irish and the Unionists who see themselves as British. This is
most clearly obvious in the elections where this singular issue seems to define outcomes more
than any other.
In Strand two, all Assembly decisions are to be made by agreement between Sinn Fein and
the Democratic Unionist Party. Northern Ireland was to be represented by Dr. Ian Paisley,
Martin Mc Guinness and other elected Ministers, the Irish Government by the Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern and members of the parliament. They work in accordance with the rules for
democratic authority and accountability for the benefit of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Strand three is considered to be the most promising component of the agreement, as it was
not solely based on the inter-regional British-Irish Council, but the intergovernmental
relations that built the peace process. The framework of the agreement associates the British
and Irish states ideologically, constitutionally and politically with unionism in Northern
Ireland. The British therefore are linked with the loyalists, including paramilitaries groups
that claimed to act in defence of British occupation of the six counties. On the other hand,
Ireland is connected with the republicans motivated by Irish people who support the return of
the six countries to the Irish people. (British Irish Council,1998).

The way forward from the Good Friday agreement, therefore, depended on the partnership of
the Unionist and Nationalist communities, rather than the establishment of a middle ground
between them. The British and Irish governments, now with joint responsibility for Northern
Island, agreed on a ‘speedy withdrawal of British military forces’ following paramilitary
ceasefires, reduction of police forces, and the reintroduction of normal judicial procedures in
the court system in Ireland (Northern Ireland office, 1998).

Why the IRA gave up its arms

The Provisional IRA’s primary political objective was to attain freedom and unite Ireland by
forcing the British to withdrawal. However, the IRA ended its long campaign without
achieving this end and ultimately proved its political ineffectiveness. Many believe that the
IRA ‘defeated itself’ in that the people of Northern Ireland, especially those in republican
communities, such as Derry, Belfast and South Armagh, grew weary of the disorder and
bloodshed. Additionally, the IRA’s supply was severed from the Libyan government which
left the army vulnerable. (Office of Public Sector Information, 2004 ).

Another explanation of the IRA’s retraction was an increased international awareness to the
conflict. In 1992, United States’ (US) President Bill Clinton granted Gerry Adams a visa,
while simultaneously sending a ‘peace’ envoy to Ireland. Henry Patterson, author of ‘Ireland
since 1939: The Persistence of Conflict,’ reports that these decisions were strongly supported
by influential Irish Americans.

The 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001 also altered the context of the IRA’s struggle in that it
solidified their decision to retract. The ‘war on terrorism’ was deployed by the US in response
to 9/11 and with that came a list of terrorist groups in which would be under surveillance. The
IRA’s name was included on that list, concerning many of its members. According to the US
State Department, terrorism was defined as a political act of violence, which was planned and
carried out against the civilian population. The example used by the US government was that
of the IRA stating, ‘. . . murderous terrorist organizations such as the provisional republican
army’. Furthermore, members of the IRA found themselves on the USA’s most wanted list.
As a result, IRA’s use of violence disappeared after 9/11 and focus shifted to the political
arena and towards peaceful change (The Christian Science Monitor, 2007).

Today, there are many countries facing similar struggles, including armed conflict and
terrorism. Even though these oppositions are caused by different factors, for instance
nationalism and separatism, religious or ethnic discrimination, it is essential for the
international community to understand why the IRA fighters laid down their weapons and
were willing to participate in a peace process. There are many lessons that can be learned
from the Northern Ireland conflict and one would hope that these tactics could be applied to
conflicts elsewhere in the world.

Critical Analysis of Progress Post Good Friday Agreement

The conceptual framework for analysis

A conceptual framework is needed in order to analyze how the Agreement influenced the
transitional society in Northern Ireland. There are a number of conflict resolution theories and
approaches used to establish the context and the analytical model. Johan Galtung proposed an
influential triangle, which includes contradiction, attitude and behaviour. The contradiction
refers to the underlying “incompatibility” between the conflicting parties in social, political
and economical levels (Ramsbotham et al, 2005). Here, the tensions of interests between the
parties will be defined. Attitude refers to how the conflicting parties perceive the relationship
between each other, often influenced by emotional factors. Behaviour includes the violence
and hostility towards the opponent groups between the conflict parties. All the three
components interact with each other. In order to resolve the conflict, efforts should be made
not only in addressing these three components, but also breaking up the dynamics. Thus, a set
of dynamic changes in behaviour, attitude and resolving conflicting interests and
relationships should take place in community, local, national, regional, international levels.
Based on this theory, a conceptual framework (see Figure 5) will examine how the
Agreement influences the various levels. In addition, the problems and success that derived
from the Agreement will be analyzed throughout this model.

Figure 5 Conceptual Framework

The General Analysis of the Agreement

According to experts, the contradiction between the Protestant, Unionist, and British section
of society and the Catholic, Nationalist, and Irish communities underpins the root of the
conflict in Northern Ireland.

There are two main aspects of the contradiction. First, there are political, economic and social
inequalities between these two communities. Secondly, it is the aspect of legitimate status of
Northern Ireland? These aspects have led the communities to feel a certain amount of
mistrust, hatred and bitterness towards one another. Consequently this has led to escalating
violence and hostilities during the 30 year conflict across the six countries.

The Agreement addresses these underlying contradictions as well as the changing attitudes
and de-escalating hostile behaviours. Conflicting interests between the Protestant and
Catholic communities are focused on the economic, political and cultural inequalities. The
Protestant community was inclined to stay with the Union between the UK and Northern
Ireland in order to maintain superiority and also protect its long term safety and self
determination. On the other hand, the Catholic community sought equality, receiving the
same rights and opportunities as did the Protestants (Hayes et al, 1999). The lack of trust
between the two sides was the major stumbling block for the peace process.

To mediate these contrasting interests, the Agreement confirms the current status of Northern
Ireland as part of the Union, in order to give security to the Protestants. However, the
Agreement also introduces political power-sharing mechanisms, advocating human rights,
promoting equal social and economic opportunities and normalizing security postures, so as
to meet the needs of the Catholic community who were oppressed by the protestant

The equality issue underpins the conflict; however, the legitimacy aspect takes precedence in
the political arena. The conflict over legitimacy of Northern Ireland includes the issue of
national identity and the associated perception on equality and security (Ruane et al, 1996).
The Agreement sets up a new institutionalization of legitimacy in order to get acceptance
from both communities.

The Irish government relinquished its formal territorial claim to Northern Ireland and the
status of Northern Ireland’s constitution was to be determined by the majority of its citizens
through democratic referendum. To that extent, the Agreement supports the Protestants' view
to stay in the Union. However, the Agreement prohibits political discrimination and endorses
equal rights for all society members. North-South Ministerial Councils were established to
promote Irish integration and identity (Todd, 1999).

These efforts largely influenced a change in attitude and behaviour in Northern Ireland. The
Agreement emphasized decommissioning and normalization of the security force.
Reformation among the policing force re-established confidence in the communities

The establishment of the Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission

institutionalize the commitment to promote reconciliation and a “shared future” for peace and
development in Northern Ireland. The political, social and economic changes brought on by
the Agreement take place at every level to ensure equality takes place at all levels of society.

The success of the Agreement on different levels

On the international level, the British-Irish Council promoted cooperation in the

reconciliation, and development of Northern Ireland. Both the Irish and British government
allocated funds and resources to different organizations in Northern Ireland in order to
improve community integration, economic and social development. The European Union and
the United States also took an active part in the peace process and the reconstruction of social
peace and reconciliation. These efforts helped to resolve the basic contradiction in inequality
between two conflicting communities.

The international business community, mainly the United States, also played an important
role during the transition period. In 1996, the Clinton Administration encouraged all political
parties to get involved in negotiations with the intention of creating new business. The
Chamber of Commerce and various trade unions were in discussions with Sinn Fein and the
Loyalist parties, often regarding economic issues. This type of influence was beneficial,
particularly as it pressured the political parties to enter into significant dialogue. The Clinton
Administration was committed to the peace process in Northern Ireland through diplomatic
and commercial efforts. The U.S. Department of Commerce has been at the forefront of
supporting those efforts through specific initiatives which encouraged the U.S. business
community to access trade and investment in Northern Ireland.

The United States business development delegation was sent to Belfast and Derry City to
focus on the growth sectors of environmental, information and health technologies to create
additional employment after 1998. More recently the economy has benefited from major
investment made by large multi-national corporations into the high-tech industry. These large
organizations are attracted by government subsidies and a highly skilled workforce in the
Northern Ireland (Hillary Clinton News, 2008).

At regional level, the North-South Ministerial Council involves both North and South in
mutual interested areas. The Council influences the social, educational and economic life on
the base of equality and justice. This was seen with the release of prisoners, which was
carried out in a quick and stable manner under the Agreement. On both international and
regional levels, the Agreement focuses on addressing the contradiction between conflicting

On the national level, there was a reduction in violence from both Sinn Fein and Loyalist
paramilitaries post Agreement. The British government significantly reduced the security
force in Northern Ireland. The Agreement stresses the importance to decrease sectarianism
among the forces through the programs of the Community Relations Council and the
Understanding Conflict Trusts. The policing force in Northern Ireland, previously known as
the Royal Ulster Constabulary, is now referred as the Police Service of Northern Ireland or
PSNI. The percentage of Catholics in the policing force has risen from 7% to 27%, there is
still much to be done to reach the goal of a 50%-50% composition.

PSNI’s main objective is to establish a level of confidence and trust with the Catholic and
Protestant communities. Divided societies, where state authority is disputed, question police
legitimacy, which dominates the social and political landscape. However, police involvement
in state and public security ensures that any action taken is directed only at those deemed
illegitimate by the state (Mulcahy, 2006). In 1999, the Patten Report, entitled “A New
Beginning” was published which recognized the crucial role of the police in the peace
process and advised a genuine partnership between the communities (Northern Ireland
Policing Board, 2002).

In order to guide the transformation of policing, the Agreement provides a human rights
framework. This framework implies that the appropriate way to rebuild community
confidence in through equality and respect the rights of all society members. The Human
Rights Act of 1998 and sections 6 and 24 of the Northern Ireland Act of 1998 provide the
human rights safeguards that apply to the devolution of policing and justice. In order for
legislation to be passed it the Northern Assembly it must align with the convention between
the police and the community. This is to ensure that there is human rights-based model of
policing for the police service of Northern Ireland (Human Rights, 2000).

Accountability and judicial independence are also areas of concern with policing in Northern
Island. The Agreement addresses issues of accountability, effectiveness and efficiency and
this same message can be seen in the Independent Commission on Policing. The vision in
both is clear, a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland. It begins with solid policing
structures and that those who serve in the policy force carry out duties in a professional,
efficient, fair and impartial manner. The force is to be free from partisan political control and
accountable for upholding the law and to the community in which it serves. The policing
force represents the society and operates within the criminal justice system, which conforms
with human rights norms (Northern Ireland Act 1998).

The Patten Report offered itself as a model that met universal needs regarding policing and
community safety and so could be implemented in any jurisdiction. The recommendations of
the Patten Commission and the success of the police service in Northern Ireland are now seen
as models for many police forces around the world. This can be seen in the measures taken by
the US security after the 9/11 event, which incorporated methods developed in Northern
Ireland. (Mulcahey, 2006).

Major reforms in policing and judicial have been undertaken. The Assembly and government
were established according to Strand one of the Agreement. The power-sharing mechanism
provides a platform for all the parities to communicate and work together in the process of
reconciliation. The Irish language received official recognition in Northern Ireland for the
first time in 1998 under the Agreement. On this level, efforts were made to reduce violent
behaviour and resolve inequality and legitimacy issues.

Northern Ireland is characterized as a deeply segregated society. The Protestants and

Catholics communities live in different areas, work in different places and most importantly
and have separated education systems. The majority of Protestant children in Northern
Ireland attend state controlled schools, whilst the majority of Catholic children attend
Catholic maintained schools. Previously Protestant schools have had a better and more
selective education system than that of the Catholic schools. The Agreement addresses the
importance of equality in education and advocates integration, stressing the importance of
creating opportunities and incentives for both communities.

In local and community level, the civil societies take an active role in community
development, psychological counselling and relationship rebuilding. Attitudinal change and
trust building are considered top priority. Community Restorative Justice (CRJ),
Regeneration of South Armagh (R.o.S.A) and South/North Armagh Victims Encouraging
Recognition (SAVER/NAVER) are programmes/organisations dedicated to reconciliation at
the community level. Each organisation works with a different group promoting respect and
understanding for the other community, all the while addressing community development
(R.o.S.A South Armagh).

CRJ, through empowerment, builds a fair community that is open-minded, receptive and
inclusive. The programme is community led and is designed to tackle issues in a holistic
manner. CRJ’s goal is to reduce the incidence of socially harmful activity by ways of
encouraging reconciliation between the victim and offender and to by building safer
communities. Today, CRJ is one of the fastest growing community based initiatives in Ireland
and to date, 14 groups have been established in Northern Ireland (Restorative Justice
Consortium, undated).

R.o.S.A, a rural support network for South Armagh, focuses on community development and
rural generation. Funded by the European Union, R.o.S.A provides service to both Catholics
and Protestants communities through cross-border IT education, volunteer work and heritage
protection and promotion. The membership-based community organization is dedicated to
eradication of social isolation and exclusion, inequality and deprivation through a partnership
approach. R.o.S.A focuses its work on youth, believing that the future is in the hands of the
youth their ability to move forward from the grievance and mistrust.

SAVER/NAVER, established in 2000, is a non-political organisation which promotes peace

and reconciliation in South and North Armagh. The goal of SAVER/NAVER is to help
victims of the Troubles deal with the past and to move forward in building a cohesive
community. Assistance is provided to men, women and youth through counselling, alternative
therapies and education. In its short existence, SAVER/NAVER has witnessed a
transformation in its members from a feeling of resentment to one of acceptance and
optimism (Gee-Silverman). The organisation just recently published a book entitled, ‘A
Legacy of Tears’, which is a collection of short stories told by the families of those lost
during the conflict. Proceeds of this book sale will go towards a Memorial Wall listing those
names that were lost.

The Problems of the Agreement

The Agreement has enabled progress in Northern Ireland; however, it has also been seen as
an impediment. Many feel as though the Agreement only mediates the interests of the two
communities, but fail to resolve the conflict. Efforts towards equality in economy and culture
will ultimately improve the status of the Catholic community, while reducing Protestant’s
dominance in society and politics. In contrast, the Catholics will expect more actions beyond
the rhetoric efforts, since the equality referred to in the Agreement is more of a goal rather
than a promise. On the community level, the different expectations will influence the process
of formal and informal interactions between the two communities. On the national level, the
Agreement highlights the Irish culture and language, which should be supported; however,
efforts should be made to embody the British culture as well.

Since 1999, the political crisis has revealed two structural flaws in the Agreement design: the
Assembly designation and the voting system. Based on consociational theory, the Assembly
in Northern Ireland adopts a power-sharing mechanism. This mechanism deepens the division
within society, making it difficult to move to a “shared future”. Strictly designed the
mechanism represents the current political parties, but leaves little space for adjustment in the
future changing the demographic and political situations.

Another debatable issue is the notion of “constructive ambiguity” of the Agreement, which
offers diverse interpretations of different communities. The Protestants party feels secure,
believing the Agreement safeguards their position by staying in the union. The Catholics
believe it could lead to a united Ireland, as stated by Gerry Adams after the signing of the
Agreement. It helps both sides to accept the Agreement; however, both parties keep
predetermined radical positions. Those extreme positions have gained more support from
followers when the power-sharing mechanism has lead to compromise, negotiation and delay
in decision making. The moderate parties were not represented and therefore had no voice. In
addition, the power-sharing system leads to political polarization, meaning that both extreme
groups outweigh the moderate parties in both in representation and political rivalry.

The political dispute between the two communities was so serious that in 2002 the Assembly
was suspended and direct rule from the British government was resumed. In 2004, the
institution was reviewed and structural changes were initiated. By the end of 2006, both the
Irish and British governments declared that the reestablishment of the political institutions
were either going to work or complete fail. It is believed that these political crises are related
to the flaw in the Agreement, which embeds separate identities and lacks efforts towards
community reconciliation.

When one speaks of Northern Ireland at the end of the last century, images of violence,
bloodshed and suffering spring to mind. In August 1994 Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn
Fein, the political branch of the IRA, announced a cessation of violence on behalf of the IRA.
Events that followed led to the IRA’s disengagement from the armed struggle and its entrance
into a peaceful political process.

On 10 April 1998, the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ was concluded. It provided a blueprint for a
comprehensive political settlement, based on the acceptance of the fact that the unification of
the north and south of Ireland would come about only if the majority of the Northern Irish
population gave their assent. This principle had been rejected for decades by the IRA. The
Good Friday Agreement proposed an elected assembly in Northern Ireland, all-Ireland bodies
with executive powers, a council of the Isles to discuss matters relevant both to Ireland and
the UK, and other matters such as the release of paramilitary prisoners. At last a political
settlement was in place.

The IRA ended its long campaign without achieving its primary political objective: to achieve
freedom and unity of Ireland by forcing a British withdrawal. The question arises why the
IRA laid down their arms to participate in peace process. The explanation most likely is that
IRA ‘defeated itself'. Eventually, the people of Northern Ireland's grew tired of the mayhem
and bloodshed. This weakened the IRA’s political influence in Northern Ireland and also led
them to the realisation that victory through military means was unlikely.

After the Good Friday Agreement was concluded, important issues like decommissioning, the
border issue, and the role of the police had to be solved. An Independent International
Decommissioning body was set up to monitor the disarmament process and actually verifying
the disposal of stocks of arms. It consisted of three persons and was headed by former
Canadian general John de Chastelain (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 Picture of John de Chastelain

The Agreement is a complicated mechanism based on political compromise and
understanding of the root causes of the conflict. It tries to address the contradiction between
Unionist and Nationalist communities through the advocacy of human rights and equality in
social and economic life. Furthermore, it aspires to the creation of a country where the rights
and interest of all are respected and protected. The referendum about the constitutional
legitimacy of Northern Ireland allows its citizens to decide their future through peaceful and
democratic process. These efforts have positively influence all the levels of society in
Northern Ireland, helping the society move from conflict, violence and hatred to
reconciliation, peace and development. The challenge for Northern Ireland derives from the
ambiguity and the shortcomings in the power-sharing system design. In order to push the
peace progress forward, adjustments should be made to the power-sharing system. Secondly,
in order to sustain peace the go the government should establish a more inclusive framework
to allow for better communication between all stakeholders. Finally, the government should
work more closely with the civil society to build a "shared future", creating a new identity for
all people living in Northern Ireland.

Renunciation of the island of Ireland is still a possibility but the idea has not been advanced
considerably in the last ten years. Dublin seems much closer in many ways to Northern
Ireland than London does. The likelihood of a better future with a unified Irish nation than a
backwater part of a changing United Kingdom is starting to sound more plausible to many in
the six countries than previously one would have been hoped for. The Good Friday
Agreement, while not creating a perfect solution for the future of Northern Ireland, has
brought a peace to the region and in some places the healing process has begun. This peace
matters far beyond the borders that contain it, as it is can be used as an example of what can
be achieved in troubled regions through the peoples determination and involvement by local
and international leaders.

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