The Context and Development of Irish Literature:
History, Poetry, Landscape

The Northern Ireland Situation, 1985 to the present day

In 1985, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, giving the Republic of Ireland a voice in Northern Ireland affairs for the first time.  Unionists criticized this move, but other political parties had arisen in the North--most notably the SDLP (Social and Democratic Labour Party)--that were pushing the North towards a political solution to its long history of violence. 

In 1997, the IRA announced an unequivocal cease-fire. Shortly thereafter, the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement of 1998 was signed by the British and Irish governments & endorsed  by most Northern Ireland parties (with the exception of the ultra-Unionist Democratic Unionist Party).  It also was approved by referendum by the population of Northern Ireland, and the Republic changed its constitution to align with the Agreement.  It had 3 particularly important provisions:

  1. the constitutional status of NI could only be changed by a majority vote of its citizenry

  2. establishment of a NI assembly with devolved (i.e., granted from Great Britain, the titular sovereign state) powers

  3. establishment of a "power-sharing" executive in NI

Amid excitement and hope over this agreement, violence erupted again, as later that summer a bomb killed 29 in Omagh, and the splinter group "The Real IRA" claim responsibility.  The violence gave more credence to Unionist skepticism over the IRA's claim to be decommissioning its arsenal.

The PIRA announced total decommissioning in September of 2005, despite far less decommissioning by Loyalist paramilitary groups.  The power-sharing agreement was reasserted in 2007, bringing Paisley's DUP and Sinn Fein, the political representatives of the IRA, together in government.  Paisley served as First Minister, and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein--himself a former IRA commander--served as Deputy First Minister. Paisley retired from public office in 2008, to be replaced by Peter Robinson.  Robinson and McGuinness share executive power today.  In the winter of 2010, after nearly two weeks of around-the-clock negotiations, it was agreed to transfer policing and justice powers to the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, effective April 12, 2010.  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proclaims, “This is the last chapter of a long and troubled story and the beginning of a new chapter after decades of violence, years of talks, weeks of stalemate.” 


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