Northern Ireland Peace Process

There was broad welcome for the Belfast Agreement in 1998 that did much to bring 30 years of the Northern Ireland Troubles to an end, by allowing for a power-sharing executive and assembly. There have also been negative assessments of its content however, some seeing it as a brokered settlement that balanced precariously on deep reserves of communal distrust and antagonism. There was also much attention focused on the resentment that unionists felt about nationalists benefiting much more from it, such sentiment rising on the unionist side from 31% of those polled in 1998 to 55% in 2002. Alongside this, it was consistently argued that the 1998 solution institutionalized sectarianism.

During the long path to a relative peace in Northern Ireland there was much desire for and talk of ‘the normalisation’ of politics and society, and many wished for the days when economics rather than violence would dominate discussion. Though the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin found a way to work together as part of a power-sharing executive and assembly, there was still much division and sectarian hatred apparent in Northern Ireland in the first decade of the twenty-first century, while dissident republicans showed no sign of disappearing and remained a serious threat to peace. Historically, given the cyclical nature of violence, there was no reason to expect it would disappear completely due to the 1998 Agreement and it did not, but it was massively reduced.


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