The Belfast Agreement was signed on 10 April 1998 following three decades of conflict known as the Troubles. The Agreement created a new power-sharing arrangement, including an Executive and Assembly, and was based on a series of fundamental principles including:
- the parity of esteem of both communities
- the principle of consent underpinning Northern Ireland’s constitutional status
- the birthright of the people of Northern Ireland to identify and be accepted as British or Irish, or both, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship
The hard-won gains of the peace process have transformed the political and economic life of Northern Ireland since 1998, and the Agreement continues to serve as a framework for peace and prosperity.
What’s in the Agreement?
The Agreement comprises the Multi-Party Agreement, between the UK and Irish Governments and the parties in Northern Ireland, and the British-Irish Agreement between the UK and Irish Governments. It was approved by voters on 22 May 1998, and came into force on 2 December 1999.
The Agreement resulted in the creation of the three strands of political structures, respectively covering Northern Ireland’s governance, North-South relations, and East-West relations. The Government is committed to upholding each of these strands, which all carry equal importance:
Strand One established the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to make laws and decisions on most of the issues affecting everyday life in Northern Ireland.
Strand Two established the North-South institutions - the North-South Ministerial Council and the North-South Implementation Bodies - that support co-operation between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Strand Three established the East-West institutions - the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and the British-Irish Council - that support co-operation between the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Agreement also set out a series of important rights for the people of Northern Ireland, including on identity and citizenship, and made commitments on decommissioning, security, policing and prisoners.