Problems With Good Friday Agreement

Northern Ireland`s period of modern conflict began in the late 1960s and lasted more than three decades. What began as a civil rights movement – Catholics protesting against the days when Northern Ireland`s Protestant government was discriminated against – escalated into violence, with the participation of paramilitary groups on both sides and the arrival of the British army in 1969. It would also be useful if the agreement could be revised to require at least one Protestant party and one Catholic party, without the need for it to be the two main parties. As it stands, Sinn Fein and the DUP have both veto power, but if the former were only to get the UUP to agree, or the latter to convince the SDLP to reach an agreement, both would be more likely to moderate their positions. “Respect” also cuts in the other direction. Unionists regularly complain that Sinn Féin does not respect the legitimacy of Northern Ireland`s current position as part of the United Kingdom, enshrined in the agreement. Its MPs do not occupy their seats at Westminster, which is therefore without a nationalist voice; the party even avoids the term “Northern Ireland.” The final withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK has agreed on a complex solution to this delicate problem. Under the proposed regime, Northern Ireland, like the rest of the UK, would leave the EU customs union, the basis for common tariffs on all products imported into the bloc. However, the necessary customs checks would not take place at the border with the Republic of Ireland, but between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, creating a new border in the Irish Sea. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland – but not the rest of the UK – would continue to follow many of the EU`s internal market rules, so that the land border with Ireland could remain open. This regime is also supported by a separate agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom allowing the free movement of persons between the two countries. The multi-party agreement required the parties to “use all the influences they might have” to obtain the dismantling of all paramilitary weapons within two years of the adoption of the agreement by referendums.

The standardization process has forced the British government to reduce the number and role of its armed forces in Northern Ireland “to a level compatible with a normal peaceful society.” These include the elimination of security measures and the abolition of special emergency powers in Northern Ireland. The Irish government has pledged to conduct a “thorough review” of its violations of national law. And let`s not forget that the 2017 general election was declared because of Brexit, the result of which forced Prime Minister May to strike a confidence and supply deal with the DUP, which backed Brexit and did not support the Good Friday deal. We see once again that Brexit and the fate of the Irish peace process are totally linked.

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