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Belfast Agreement

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The Belfast Agreement (more commonly known as the Good Friday Agreement and also known as the Stormont Agreement) was signed in Belfast on April 10, 1998 by the British and Irish Governments and most Northern Irish political parties. It was subsequently endorsed by the voters of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in separate referenda.

The main provisions of the agreement were:-

  • The principle that the constitutional future of Northern Ireland should be determined by the democratically expressed wish of its people.
  • A commitment by all parties to 'exclusively peaceful and democratic means.'
  • The establishment of a Northern Irish Legislative Assembly.
  • A 'Power-sharing' Executive, made up from the main parties in proportion to their strength in the Assembly.
  • A set of 'North-South Bodies' to bring about cooperation in government policy and programmes on a number of issues.
  • A British-Irish Council, composed of representatives from the governments of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man to discuss areas of common concern.
  • Release within two years of paramilitary prisoners belonging to organisations observing the ceasefire.
  • A two year target for decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.
  • The modification of the Irish 'constitutional claim' to Northern Ireland.
  • Legislation for Northern Ireland on policing, human rights and equality.

Vague wording of some of the provisions, which helped ensure acceptance of the agreement at the time, only postponed debate on some of the more contentious issues - most notably paramilitary decommissioning.

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