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How the Good Friday Agreement has brought peace to Northern Ireland

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

The Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, was signed on 10 April 1998 and ratified in a referendum in May 1998. It brought an end to a period of conflict in Northern Ireland known as 'The Troubles'.

What did the Good Friday Agreement mean for the people of Northern Ireland?

  • It was a major breakthrough in the peace process in NI

  • A devolved government of Northern Ireland was to be set up

  • The people and politicians committed to power-sharing between nationalist and unionist communities

  • People of Northern Ireland could now make laws for Northern Ireland

  • People of Northern Ireland could look forward to a future of peace and equality

The Good Friday Agreement led to the following being established in Northern Ireland:

Democratic institutions of government

The agreement lead to the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. This provides a forum for reaching agreement through discussion without resorting to violence.

Government bodies

Government bodies such as the Equality Commission (NI) and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission were set up. These organisations ensure that people's human rights are upheld.

Dual Citizenship

By recognising the right of people living in Northern Ireland to hold either British and/or Irish Citizenship meant that the people of Northern Ireland could identify with the culture they felt they belonged to and they could define their nationality openly. Dual citizenship reduces the tension around nationality.

North/South bodies

The British Irish Council was established to promote cooperation and better relations better people in the North and the South of Ireland.

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion

The agreement promoted the idea of an inclusive society in which everyone is treated equally and advocates respect and tolerance for others from different backgrounds and traditions.

The Justice system was reorganised

The Good Friday Agreement introduced reform of policing, establishing the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Department of Justice and the office of the Police Ombudsman to ensure that the justice system is fair for everyone living in Northern Ireland.

Decommissioning of arms

The agreement required paramilitary groups to decommission illegally held arms. This makes it more difficult for these groups to resort to the violence of the past.

Self-determination introduced

Since the Good Friday Agreement the people of Northern Ireland have the right to determine whether Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom or become part of a united Ireland. This means that people have a free choice and that this decision is less likely to be achieved through violence but rather by consent of the people.

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