Establishing Peace in Northern Ireland

Due to the amount of violence that has occurred in Northern Ireland there has been many attempts to bring peace back to the country. All of the previous attempts have failed. However The Downing Street Declaration 1993 was a big step towards peace. This was agreed between Prime Minister John Major and the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds. Talks were to be set up to decide on a new form of government for Northern Ireland and that the Northern Ireland government would respect all traditions in Northern Ireland.

The Irish government accepted that it might have to drop the parts of it constitution, which claimed the North as part of its territory. The Irish government would set up a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to promote trust and understanding between the traditions. Only those who rejected violence could be part of this. The British government accepted the Irish unity was an issue for Irish people, but said that it could only happen with the consent of those in the North.

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The British Government also said it has no selfish political or economic interest in Northern Ireland, but was concerned only with the welfare of all the people of Northern Ireland. Another step towards peace was The Good-Friday Agreement, the ceasefires that have been made by the IRA and the Downing Street Declaration. In 1997, 31 August the IRA announced a complete ceasefire and then in October that year the Loyalists declared the same. But this was a development because by Christmas there was peace.

The Downing Street declaration that I have explained above led to a more peaceful future by threatening people to not cause violence or else it would be out of the declaration. The Good Friday Agreement 1998, this included a review of policing in Northern Ireland and a new Northern Ireland Assembly with 108 members would be set up. All key decisions would require the consent of both communities in the province. A North-South Council of Ministers would also be set up, made up of members of the new Assembly and ministers from the Republic. Early release for paramilitary prisoners was also promised.

At the beginning of the year there was a crisis when the support of prisoners was beginning to die out but was revived. It was now becoming clear that loyalist and republicans were prepared to agree peace. However some were not prepared to agree peace. There are still many problems that subsist which have yet to be resolved. The tone was one of caution celebration when the newspapers emerged after the Good Friday Agreement. When the people of Ireland, North and South, voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum of May 1998, most people thought it was a time of celebration.

However, many people especially in Northern Ireland were concerned. Although there are some problems taking place in Northern Ireland today, the last decade has been one of the biggest breakthroughs made to bringing peace. Some parts have been successful although some hadn’t. We will see problems in Northern Ireland for a long time too come and whether these problems are solved is an ambiguity because the two governments cannot please everyone. As long as violence goes on so does the battle for peace.

In July 1999 the Assembly fell apart when the Unionists refused to take part in forming a new government because the IRA had not started decommissioning weapons. Senator George Mitchell had to carry out a review to rescue the peace process. The latest and most damaging event has been the allegation that republicans have been running a spying operation in the Northern Ireland Office. David Trimble committed his party to pulling out of power sharing in January 2003 if republicans did not commit themselves to exclusively peaceful means. The spying allegations prompted Mr Trimble to bring forward his threat to walkout.

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