Policy paper

The Belfast Agreement

The Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, was signed on 10 April 1998. It underpins Northern Ireland’s peace, its constitutional settlement, and its institutions.

This was published under the 1997 to 2001 Labour government

Documents

The Belfast Agreement

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Details

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.

Published 10 April 1998