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The Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement and, more rarely, as the Stormont Agreement) was a major step in the Northern Ireland peace process. It was signed in Belfast on April 10 1998 (Good Friday) by the British and Irish governments and endorsed by most Northern Ireland political parties. It was endorsed by the voters of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in separate referenda on May 23 1998.
- The principle that the constitutional future of Northern Ireland should be determined by the majority vote of its citizens.
- A commitment by all parties to "exclusively peaceful and democratic means".
- The establishment of a Northern Ireland Assembly with devolved legislative powers.
- Creation of a 'power-sharing' Northern Ireland Executive, using the D'Hondt method to allocate Ministries proportionally to the main parties.
- Creation of a North-South Ministerial Council and North-South Implementation Bodies to bring about cooperation in government policy and programmes on a number of issues.
- Establishment of a British-Irish Council, composed of representatives from the governments of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, to discuss areas of common concern.
- Release within two years of paramilitary prisoners belonging to organisations observing a ceasefire.
- A two year target for decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.
- The modification of the Republic's 'territorial claim' to Northern Ireland in Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution.
- New legislation for Northern Ireland on policing, human rights and equality.
Vague wording of some of the provisions, which helped ensure acceptance of the agreement at the time, served to postpone debate on some of the more contentious issues - most notably paramilitary decommissioning. A date of May, 2000, was set for total disarming of all paramilitary groups. In December, 2004, this had still not been achieved, although the vast majority of violence had ceased.
In May 1998 there were separate referenda in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to endorse the Belfast Agreement. The "No" vote in Northern Ireland came predominantly from Unionists opposed to concessions being made to nationalists and republicans. However opinion polls suggest a slim majority of Unionists may have voted "Yes". In the Republic of Ireland the electorate voted upon the Nineteenth Amendment. This amendment both permitted the state to comply with the Belfast Agreement and provided for the removal of the 'territorial claim' contained in Articles 2 and 3. The Republic of Ireland voted upon the Amsterdam Treaty on the same day. The results of the two, simultaneous referenda on the Belfast Agreement were as follows:
|Northern Ireland||676,966 (71%)||274,879 (29%)||81%|
|Republic of Ireland||1,442,583 (94%)||85,748 (6%)||56%|
- Northern Ireland peace process
- Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland
- Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
- Sunningdale Agreement
- Anglo-Irish Agreement
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