Changing relations - towards closer co-operation

Changing relations - towards closer co-operation

The Influence of the European Community

  • The European Community (EC), now the European Union, has been a significant influence on the changing relations between Northern Ireland and its neighbours.
  • Both the UK and Ireland joined the EC in 1973, which helped encourage cooperation and dialogue between the two nations.
  • The EC funded cross-border projects and infrastructure, indirectly promoting cooperation.
  • Involvement with the EC led to common agricultural and fisheries policies which brought about closer economic ties.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement

  • The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Ireland’s Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald in 1985.
  • The Agreement gave the Republic of Ireland a formal advisory role in the governance of Northern Ireland.
  • For the first time, the UK officially recognised the Republic of Ireland’s interest in Northern Ireland.
  • This caused a severe backlash among Unionists who saw it as a betrayal; however, it was supported by Nationalists and the Irish and British governments.

The Role of John Hume of the SDLP

  • John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), promoted dialogue and negotiation throughout the Troubles.
  • Hume engaged in a series of secret talks with Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin in the 1980s, a highly controversial move.
  • He stood firm in the belief that peace could only be achieved through negotiation, despite criticism.
  • Hume’s efforts resulted in the Downing Street Declaration, a precursor to the Good Friday Agreement.

The Good Friday Agreement

  • The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), also known as the Belfast Agreement, was signed on 10 April 1998.
  • The GFA was a major political development that marked a decisive step to end violence in Northern Ireland.
  • Key elements of the GFA included power-sharing in Northern Ireland, the end of the Republic of Ireland’s territorial claim over Northern Ireland, and the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.
  • The Agreement demonstrated greater cooperation between the UK, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, and was backed by the United States and the European Union.
  • It was ratified by a referendum in both parts of Ireland in May 1998.

By studying this period of closer cooperation, it is possible to understand the significant influence that external forces play in changing relations, the importance of dialogue for peace and the complex interplay of politics and identity in Northern Ireland.