The Good Friday Agreement is the cornerstone of our commitment to peace and stability on this island. It was agreed on 10 April 1998 and overwhelmingly approved in 2 referendums in both parts of Ireland in May 1998.
The Good Friday Agreement gives prominence to the ‘principle of consent’ which affirms the legitimacy of the aspiration to a United Ireland while recognising the current wish of the majority in Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
It goes on to state that…
“it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a United Ireland, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.
The Agreement put in place a framework to establish a number of political institutions. This framework is made up of three strands, together representing the relationships that exist within and between the islands of Britain and Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive were set up so that the elected political parties could share power. The Assembly is located at Stormont, just outside Belfast.
The North South Ministerial Council was set up to develop co-operation between both parts of Ireland.
The British-Irish Council was set up to promote the relationship between Ireland and Britain.
These devolved institutions only operated intermittently in the years immediately following the Good Friday Agreement, and the Irish and British Governments continued to work with the parties to build trust and confidence.
Since the Good Friday Agreement
The Peace Process has been successful over the last two decades in moving definitively beyond the violence of the Troubles. Since the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, it has been necessary to pursue a series of successive further political and legal agreements to consolidate the peace settlement provided for in the GFA.
In 2005, the Independent Decommissioning Body confirmed that IRA decommissioning had taken place. In 2006, the St. Andrew’s Agreement was published, which set out a path to full devolution of policing and justice and a stable power-sharing arrangement.
In 2010, the signing of the Hillsborough Agreement allowed for the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which then began later that year. It also included an agreement on controversial parades which had caused ongoing conflict between communities.
In 2014, the British and Irish Governments convened talks with the Northern Ireland Executive parties, resulting in the Stormont House Agreement of December 2014. The Stormont House Agreement covers a broad range of political, social and economic issues and has the twin aims of reconciliation and economic renewal in Northern Ireland. To this end, the Government also undertook a number of financial commitments, as did the British Government. The Stormont House Agreement also provides for the establishment of a new institutional framework for dealing with the past.
In November 2015, A Fresh Start – The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan was agreed after 10 weeks of talks convened by the British and Irish Governments. The Fresh Start Agreement addressed implementation of many aspects of the Stormont House Agreement along with the additional issue of tackling the continuing impact and legacy of paramilitarism.
Regrettably, it was not possible to reach agreement on the implementation of the provisions of the Stormont House Agreement dealing with the legacy of the past within the timescale of the Fresh Start talks. The Irish and British Governments committed to continuing work on this issue with a view to securing an agreed basis for the establishment of the new institutional framework for dealing with the past as provided for under the Stormont House Agreement.
In 2017, the power-sharing Executive collapsed and the Executive and Assembly did not meet for three years as convened by the two Governments continued, to seek to restore the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to sustainable operation.
New Decade, New Approach Agreement – January 2020
On 9 January 2020, the British and Irish Governments proposed the New Decade, New Approach agreement to the Northern Ireland political parties, providing for a balanced package to make politics and government in Northern Ireland more transparent, accountable, stable, inclusive and effective.
On 11 January 2020, on the basis of the New Decade, New Approach agreement, the power-sharing Executive and Assembly were restored, with all five main political parties in Northern Ireland participating.
In the context of the proposed agreement, the Government published a series of financial and other commitments, as did the British Government. The Irish Government’s commitments include working through the North South Ministerial Council to help deliver projects that will benefit people across the island, including to achieve greater connectivity, North and South and to invest in the North West region and in Border Communities.
The Government looks forward to continuing to cooperate with the British Government, including through the East/West institutions of the Agreement, to see that the full promise of the Good Friday Agreement is realised in terms of peace, relationships, and reconciliation.
Good Friday Agreement: The path to peace
Our new training programme tells the story of peace, the women and trade-unionists at its heart, and why the work to deliver on its promise goes on.
Why’s it so important? Watch this.
An education programme to build practical understanding of the Agreement and to discuss what it means to a new generation today
The Good Friday Agreement was one of the most progressive political acts of the last century, bringing peace and power sharing after years of conflict and stalemate.
The Good Friday Agreement was a starting point, not the finishing line and it is as relevant today as it was in 1998.
This education programme, designed for Labour Party members, provides information and brings the story of the Good Friday Agreement to life through a webinar series and a new module on Labour’s e-learning platform Achieve.
In the webinars, we hear from those who were there at the time: from politicians, trade unions, civil society and the women’s movement. And we will hear from young people in Northern Ireland, to understand what it means to a new generation today and of the work that is still to be done to realise the promise of peace.
For Labour’s wider training and political education resources, click here.
Hear from Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh on why we’re launching the Good Friday Education Programme
Take our online e-Learning course, ‘the Pathway to Peace’
Our course takes you through the context, contents and legacy of the Agreement
Our four-part webinar series on the story of the Good Friday Agreement
Thursday 21 January 6pm
Good Friday Agreement: The Path to Peace
The Good Friday Agreement is one of the most successful peace agreements ever negotiated. It ended decades of conflict, but the path to peace wasn’t easy – and many thought it would never happen.
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh MP and the University of Liverpool’s Professor Jon Tonge discuss ‘The Path to Peace’ with former Northern Ireland Minister Lord Alf Dubs and former Secretary of State Lord Paul Murphy.
In this webinar they discuss why the Good Friday Agreement was so important, how it was achieved, and why it is as important today as it was in 1998.
Watch a recording of this session
Thursday 18 February 6pm
Good Friday Agreement: Women, Trade Unions and Civil Society
The Good Friday Agreement was negotiated by politicians and governments at Stormont, but a lot of its content came from the women’s movement, trade unions and civil society. That included a focus on human rights and equality.
In this session, Lou Haigh MP and Professor Jon Tonge are joined by Monica McWilliams who led the negotiations for the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, and Avila Kilmurray who was also a founding member of the Women’s Coalition and the first all-Ireland Women’s Officer for Unite the Union.
Watch a recording of this session
Thursday 25 March 6pm
Good Friday Agreement: The Peace Generation
On accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, the former SDLP leader John Hume said people persevered for peace ‘so that our children could look to the future with a smile of hope. The Good Friday Agreement has the greatest impact on the generation born immediately after its signing – a generation now coming of age.
In this session, we hear directly from the ‘The Peace Generation’ with young leaders representative of all corners and communities in Northern Ireland on what the Good Friday Agreement means to a new generation. They include Tara Grace Connolly, Ireland UN Youth Representative, Aron Hughes from the all-island peacebuilding organization Cooperation Ireland, Chris Swann, Student and Youth Officer of Labour Party Irish and Kane Emerson who is Youth Officer for Islington South CLP.