How successful has the peace process in Northern Ireland been?
In this answer I have been set the task of investigating and analysing how successful the British Government has been at solving the troubles in Northern Ireland since 1972.
The peace process started first started in1974 when the power sharing idea was set up - How successful has the peace process in Northern Ireland been? introduction. It was made up of Brian Falkner – leader of the Unionists, Gerry Filt – the SDLP leader which was a moderate nationalist party which mainly consisted of Catholics, the alliance party Oliver Napier, The British PM – Edward Heath and the Irish Liam Cosgrave. They all came together and met at Sunningdale on 6th December to negotiate an agreement for the council of Ireland. They also united to try to get a successful framework for the new government at Stormont.
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They devised an agreement named the Sunningdale Agreement but the most controversial parts of it were the Irish council, the reform of the RUC and the and the Northern Irish police force.
The agreement took place on 1st January 1974 and was led by Falkner and Gerry Filt. However it immediately ran into problems when an Industrial strike which was known as the ‘General worker’s Strike’ occurred. In this petrol workers and power station worker went on strike. Also the executive of the agreement resigned and so the Sunningdale agreement only lasted five months until May 14th before it folded in.
I will now try to explain these problems.
The main problem with the Sunningdale Agreement was that both communities were very opposed to each other and there was a lot of tension as the Nationalists were un-happy that Internment was still in force.
Another bad thing about this agreement was the Council of Ireland idea. This split the executive in half as the Nationalists liked the way that this would mean the Dublin Government would have some say in how Ireland was ruled. The Unionists however were completely opposed to this idea as any influence from Dublin was not what they wanted. Therefore the executive was split with the decision to choose the side to take.
Finally workers from Ulster Unionist Council called a general strike over the Council of Ireland idea and so this was the last straw for the executive and he was pretty was pretty much forced to resign and so direct rule was once again from London.
Nevertheless there was a few successes to the agreement and these were that all parties on both sides were represented which was a sign of Uniting and the Sunningdale agreement meant that at last the Nationalists had a say in the way Northern Ireland was ran.
Since the early seventies, there has been a number of initiatives to try to resolve the problem’s / troubles. They are in chronological order:
? Northern Ireland Peace Assembly – 1982
? The Anglo – Irish Agreement – 1985
? The Downing Street Declaration – 1985
? The Good Friday Agreement -1998
Each of these Initiatives had both successes and failures. In turn I will explain each of the Initiatives and talk about the things that went wrong and right for each one.
I will look at each of the Initiatives in chronological order starting with the earliest – 1982 and working through to the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
Max Carter 11EB
The first attempt of peace was the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982. This was basically a power sharing assembly with members elected by Proportional Representation.
The assembly was discussion based only and it was just a small experiment to see how it developed. As it turns out, there was no power and was actually the least successful of all Initiatives.
There were several problems, which were that Catholic Nationalists refused to attend as it had no power and so it was a failure from the beginning.
It also came straight after the hunger strike, which was not good because the Nationalists were already very angry towards the Unionists over the hunger strike deaths. This meant they were unwilling to even talk to the Unionists, let alone co-operate!
Overall this Initiative was a complete failure. As it had no power, no people of any importance attended and so it was a bad idea from the start.
The next attempt of moving the peace process forwards was the Anglo – Irish agreement of 1985.
It was agreed between British PM Margaret Thatcher and Irish Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald. It was an intergovernmental conference where the Northern Irish secretary and Irish Foreign Minister were to meet regularly. There were to be cross border co-operation on several on several issues. The British Government were to accept that there might be a united Ireland but only with majority consent in Northern Ireland. The Irish Government was also to accept partition.
There were many successes with this initiative; firstly it was well received in mainland Britain and in the Republic of Ireland. The SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) who were a moderate Nationalist group and the Alliance party of Northern Ireland were both in favour of the Initiative.
Also the British PM helped to reduce the IRA violence and the cross border co-operation helped her with this.
Many Nationalists turned from Sinn Fein to SDLP after feeling they now had a means to get support from the Republic’s Government to air their grievances.
However there were a few problems with this agreement, because the agreement accepted Partition (division of Ireland) Sinn Fein rejected it.
Some unionist parties (UUP and DUP) thought that because Loyalist paramilitaries clashed with the RUC, they thought it was a betrayal.
Finally the extremists who were also known as terrorists continued terror campaigns of violence and this was both Nationalist and Unionists sides and not just one or the other.
This source shows this:
1887 – An IRA car bomb kills eleven people and injures over sixty at a Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen.
A single loyalist gunman kills three mourners at an IRA activist’s funeral.
This just shows how bad they can be as killing someone at a funeral is showing no remorse or respect to the mourners who would be finding things hard enough with one dead let alone four. Also letting off a car bomb at a remembrance day service is very wicked as that is the service to remember the people who died fighting for the way the country stands today.
Moving onto attempt three, the next step in the process was the Downing Street Declaration of 1993.
Max Carter 11EB
This third initiative was agreed between British Prime Minister John Major and Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. Talks were to be set up to try to decide on a new type of government for Northern Ireland. The only organisations to be involved in this declaration were ones which were not violent, for example the SDLP and the Alliance Party as well as the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party)
The British were not interested selfishly in Northern Ireland but were just in the welfare of the Northern Irish people. They confirmed this by a statement.
The British accepted that Unity of the Irish was only a matter of the people and so must have consent from the North. Soon after, the republic also accepted consent.
The Irish accepted that parts of their constitution (which included and claimed that the North was part of their territory) might have to be changed or altered.
Next the Irish Government set up a forum for peace and reconciliation. This was set up not just to promote trust but also understanding between the two religions traditions.
There were lots of successes for this initiative; firstly both the SDLP and the Alliance Party supported the declaration. This meant the Unionists and Nationalists were starting to get on better with each other as they both supported one thing and not lots of different things like before.
Support from the moderates from people demanding peace increased. However, the extremist support dropped and although the Ulster Unionist’s Party accepted it, it was only with lots of caution. Still the biggest party in Northern Ireland were now ready and in agreement to start searching for peace.
On both sides, paramilitaries examined the agreement, which indicates and shows me that at least they were considering giving up their violent sides. Both communities now also condemned other violence caused by terrorists and the two sides were finally starting to agree on things for the first time in a long time.
However after all these good points and successes, there were two problems with the 1993 Downing Street Declaration.
The Hard line Unionists (DUP) were still in opposition and the British Government had sold off and out Ulster to buy off the fiendish republicans.
Paramilitaries although agreeing on the condemned violence, still continued to attack and kill each other. Still this worried the British PM John Major.
The final attempt to bring peace to Northern Ireland was initiative number four: the Good Friday agreement.
The agreement was the idea of setting up a new Northern Ireland Assembly for 108 new members. All of which would decide on key decisions but would also require the consent of both parties.
Also a North/South council of ministers were to be set up with members from the Northern Ireland Assembly and ministers from the republic. This republic would change constitution, which claimed the North as part of their large territory.
Another thing with this agreement was that policing in Northern Ireland was to be reviewed and the early release of Para prisoners was promised.
The main successes of this initiative were that majority of terrorist groups including the IRA and Sinn Fein had agreed to a complete cease-fire so that they could be included in talks that could end the violence between parties forever.
After The Good Friday Agreement was introduced, the terrorism was greatly reduced and referendums held gained lots of votes accepting the agreement.
? 94% accepted in the South
? 71% in the North
Max Carter 11EB
These results showed the overwhelming support for the peace talks and progress and this also shows me that the violent groups wanted to end it as well.
For the first proper time, the North and South were beginning to properly communicate and co-operate with each other. The dream finally had started to look as if it was becoming a reality!
The only problem with this agreement was that lots of weapons were decommissioned. Some saw this as good though, as if the peace process were to continue then the paramilitaries had to disarm and put a permanent end to violence. In Ireland today this still remains one of the key problems facing Northern Ireland.
In conclusion I feel that the last initiative – The Good Friday Agreement (1998), made the largest impact on the peace process. I think this because there was just one slightly bad thing and many thought this flaw to be good anyway because the decommissioning of weapons meant an end to violence. I also believe this made the most impact because both sides had begun to start communicating and co-operating with each other. Both the North and South overwhelmingly accepted the agreement and this is why I feel this made the largest impact.
But, another key impact was made with the 1973-74 power-sharing executive. This was because it provided a framework for the future of Ireland and for the first time in decades, the Nationalists were given a chance to say what they thought about it all and how they wanted to country ruled.
This paved the way for the peace agreements.
Overall I feel that ‘The Good Friday’ agreement was the largest impact as when Sinn Fein and IRA joined the process, there was practically no terrorist violence and so to an extent, the peace process was well on its way and working.