O GOD, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Alternative Services p. 677
The Agreement is composed of 3 main components, called strands. Strand 1 concerns the internal structure of Northern Ireland. Strand 2 concerns Northern Ireland's relations with the Republic of Ireland. Strand 3 concerns the relations between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. In addition, the agreement includes sections on Constitutional Issues, Rights, Decommissioning of Arms, Security, Policing and Prisoners. This is an (unofficial) synopsis of the 30 page document.
Strand 1 - Internal Structure of Northern Ireland
A 108 member assembly to govern Northern Ireland elected from 18 constituencies. It will have a democratically elected First Minister and a Deputy First Minister.
Most decisions are reached via a common majority. However, if a set number of members sign a “petition of concern” over an issue, the decision must be reached through a majority of both Unionist and Nationalist assembly members.
Ministers will be appointed from members, by the d’Hondt system, for the various government posts.
The assembly can pass legislation in Northern Ireland, with some limitations from London.
A Civic Forum to consult on social, economic and cultural issues.
All members must agree to the principles of non-violence and democracy.
Strand 2 - North/South Bodies
A North/South Ministerial Council is to be established to develop co-operation between the 2 states and assist each other on issues of common interest, eg tourism and also the European Union. These areas will be defined by 31 October 1998.
The Council is to have 4 main members. 2 will be the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The other 2 will be from the Irish government.
The council is to agree on policies which will be implemented in each state independently, although with an all-island core.
Strand 3 - British-Irish Relations
A Council of the British Isles to be established to promote the mutual development of the islands of Britain, Ireland and the smaller islands. It will discuss issues such as agriculture, culture, security and health.
The abolition of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.
The council will have members from London, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland.
A British-Irish Agreement will be set up promote bilateral cooperations between the British and Irish governments. It will meet as a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
The Irish government may put forward proposals concerning Northern Ireland to be examined by the appropriate jurisdiction.
Recognise that the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must both agree, by separate referrenda, to a United Ireland by majority consent before it can take place, and that no other people have a right to vote in any such decision.
Recognise that, for the forseeable future, the majority of people of Northern Ireland wish to remain within the UK and that must be respected.
The UK government must agree to a United Ireland if the majority of citizens in Northern Ireland vote for it.
Both governments must accept the right of Northern Ireland citizens to declare themselves as either British or Irish and that dual citizenship must be provided for those who desire it.
A vote on Northern Ireland's status can be initiated by the Secretary of State if (s)he feels that a majority of people there are likely to vote for unification with the Republic of Ireland. A vote must not occur more frequently than once every 7 years.
Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution are to be re-worded so that there is no longer a territorial claim over Northern Ireland. Instead, the constitution is to support the right to electoral consent. It will also declare that Irish laws only apply to the 26 counties and not to all 32 as previously asserted.
Northern Ireland will be governed based on mutual respect and recognition of the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly freedom of political thought, religion, place of residence and the rights of democratic government, peaceful constitutional change, absence of sectarianism and equal opportunity regardless of religion, politics, gender, race, disability, age, marital status, dependents or sexual orientation.
Public bodies must demonstrate cross-community and other equal opportunities.
A Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is to be established to protect minorities in Northern Ireland and to ensure that business is conducted without discrimination.
The Republic of Ireland will consider incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into its constitution.
Recognition of the suffering caused by the violence in Northern Ireland’s recent past and establishment of the Northern Ireland Victims Commission to both promote reconciliation and preserve the memory of the 3,600 people who were killed since 1969.
The British government will sign the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and help to preserve the Irish language for those who wish to use it. This may mean installation of Irish language translations of public writings and notices.
Decommissioning of Terrorist Arms
All paramilitary organisations, in particular the IRA, UVF and UDA who were represented at the talks, must hand all their arms to an independent body within 2 years of the implementation of the agreement (by May 2000).
The progress will be monitored by an independent Commission.
A return as soon as possible to normal peace-time security arrangements for Northern Ireland and removal of the Emergency Power acts.
Removal of security installations which are deemed unnecessary, plus a reduction in the British Army presence in the province.
Enforcement of the UK-wide ban on handguns introduced on 2 April 1998, but not enforced in Northern Ireland.
The RUC police force is to be made more cross-community to reflect the makeup of the people of Northern Ireland.
An independent Commission will be set up to recommend future arrangements for the RUC to ensure that it operates within the bounds of human rights and equal opportunity and has the confidence of the public.
An independent Commission will be set up to recommend reforms of Northern Ireland’s Criminal Justice system.
The justice system in Northern Ireland will be reviewed by the UK government.
The release of prisoners convicted of terrorist offences is to be accelerated.
Prisoners belonging to groups who are not on complete ceasefire will not be released.
While account will be taken of the seriousness of offences, prisoners should all be released within 2 years of the enactment of the agreement (by May 2000).
Facilities will be provided for re-integration of prisoners into society.
[The UK Government has clarified that prisoners who re-offend or whose organisations return to violence will lose the release right and will be re-interred for their sentences.]
Background Midi: Celtic Alleluia
Ashes to Easter
Steps leading to reconciliation |