Anglo-Irish Agreement - Summary of Events
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The following text has been contributed by Alan Morton, Ph.D. Student with the Irish Peace Institute Research Centre, University of Limerick. The views expressed in this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
Summary of Events
"I had come to the conclusion that I must now give priority to heading off the growth of support for the IRA in Northern Ireland by seeking a new understanding with the British Government, even at the expense of my cherished, but for the time being at least clearly unachievable, objective of seeking a solution through negotiations with the Unionists."
"I started from the need for greater security, which was imperative. If this meant making limited political concession to the South, much as I disliked this kind of bargaining, I had to contemplate it."
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed
by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Ireland at Hillsborough,
Co. Down on 15 November 1985. The Agreement was the most important
development in Anglo-Irish relations since the 1920s. Both Governments
confirmed that there would be no change in the status of Northern
Ireland without the consent of a majority of its citizens. Both
Governments also viewed the Agreement as a means of inducing unionist
leaders in Northern Ireland to accept a devolved power-sharing
The Irish Government, through the Anglo-Irish
Intergovernmental Conference and Maryfield Secretariat, was provided
with a consultative role in the administration of Northern Ireland
for the first time. It was this consultative role, accompanied
by the continuing conditional nature of the British claim to Northern
Ireland, that caused strong opposition to the Agreement from the
unionist population of Northern Ireland. Republicans also opposed
the Agreement as falling short of their demands for immediate
British withdrawal and a united Ireland.
The primary objective of the Agreement
was to foster peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. With
regard to this objective, the Agreement has failed. The two communities
in Northern Ireland are as polarised in the 1990s as they ever
have been. However, in terms of co-operation between the Irish
and British Governments in relation to security and legal affairs,
cross-border co-operation, and political matters, the Agreement
has had some success. The desire to head off the rise of Sinn
Féin (SF) and isolate the Irish Republican Army (IRA) also
succeeded, at least in the short-term.
The Irish Government has also provided
a voice for the nationalist minority in how Northern Ireland is
governed. Most importantly, the Agreement has institutionalised
Anglo-Irish relations. The Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference
has provided a vital channel of communication between the two
sovereign powers that has produced increased understanding and
promoted a bi-partisan approach to the Northern Ireland conflict.
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.
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