The signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998 was a remarkable achievement. The shape of the deal had been anticipated by: the Brooke–Mayhew talks of 1991–2; the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993; the Framework Documents of 1995; and the ‘Heads of Agreement’ document in 1998. What was impressive was the willingness of Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party to support an agreement that represented such a shift from their previous negotiating positions. The British and Irish governments intended that the GFA would be built on the moderate centre-ground of Northern Irish politics, with the SDLP and UUP marginalizing their hardline Sinn Féin and DUP rivals. There was, as in 1994, no obvious convergence in nationalist and unionist public opinion propelling this accommodation from below. This lack of convergence meant that the GFA was designed so that ‘each protagonist could interpret it as a victory for his tradition’ (Rawnsley 2000, p. 138). Sinn Féin leaders presented the GFA as part of a process towards Irish unity, while pro-Agreement unionist leaders claimed it was a settlement that involved the strengthening of the Union. The rough parameters of the GFA had been outlined, but the implementation of the Agreement was part of ongoing negotiations and some issues, including criminal law, policing, local government, a bill of rights and decommissioning were left open to interpretation and negotiation in order to provide political elites with the ‘creative ambiguity’ and ‘wriggle room’ to allow the Agreement and peace process to survive and evolve.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- The End of the Peace Process? The Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, 1998–2007
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number