The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement

News: The US President Joe Biden is set to visit Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

 President Joe Biden descended from Irish immigrants (second after John F Kennedy) and is vocally proud of his Irish heritage.

What is the Good Friday agreement?
 Signed on April 10, 1998, between factions of Northern Ireland and the governments of Britain and Ireland, to end 30 years of the violence known as ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
 The Agreement has been hailed as a model deal to end long-standing conflicts and fetched a joint Nobel peace prize.

What were the ‘Troubles’?
 Northern Ireland was created in 1921 and in 1922 the rest of Ireland gained independence from the British (the today’s Republic of Ireland, with its capital in Dublin).
 Northern Ireland remained with the UK, but tensions simmered between those who wished to remain with the UK (Protestants) and those who wanted to join Ireland (Catholics).
 By the 1960s, the Protestants had become more powerful and the Catholics started facing discrimination. Subsequently, violence erupted between both factions – The Troubles, claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people.

What were the terms of Good Friday agreement?
 Northern Ireland would continue to be a part of the UK.
 It could join Ireland if a majority of voters on both sides supported it in a referendum.
 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 are the achievements of agreement?
 End to bloodshed, violence and restoration of peace.
 Although, Brexit has created an issue as Northern Ireland shares a land border with an EU country – Ireland. As the EU and the UK have different product standards, checks would be necessary for sending goods from Northern Ireland to Ireland.
 The MI5 (Britain’s intelligence agency) has recently raised 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.

Mitigation measures:
 Checks would be conducted between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
 The UK and the EU reached an agreement known as the Windsor Framework – which seeks to address the aforementioned disruptions to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

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