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Table of contents
- Northern Ireland and Beyond
- Related articles
- Past & Present: The 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland - Beyond Skin
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It called for negotiations between November and March on forming a new devolved government; during this time, the DUP would agree to share power with Sinn Fein and Sinn Fein would agree to support the police service and join the Policing Board. In January , Sinn Fein members voted to support Northern Ireland's police and the criminal justice system in the context of the reestablishment of the political institutions.
Many experts viewed Sinn Fein's resolution as historic, given the IRA's traditional view of the police as a legitimate target. On March 26, , Paisley and Adams met for the first time ever and announced a deal to form a power-sharing government on May 8, Observers contended that the image of Paisley and Adams sitting at the same table was unprecedented, as were the statements of both leaders pledging to work toward a better future for "all" the people of Northern Ireland.
Many experts believed that unlike past efforts, this deal would stick, given that it was reached by the DUP and Sinn Fein, viewed as the two most polarized forces in Northern Ireland politics. At the same time, tensions continued to persist within the devolved government and between the unionist and nationalist communities. At the time of the Good Friday Agreement's signing, the parties had been unable to reach an accord on the devolution of the sensitive matters of policing, prisons, and the criminal justice system. Consequently, the parties agreed to postpone the devolution of policing and justice powers until an undetermined point in the future.
The St. Andrews Agreement called for the devolution of policing and justice powers by May , but the DUP and Sinn Fein remained at odds over this timeline. The DUP maintained that May was merely an aspirational date to which it was not committed. In July , the lack of progress on devolving police and justice powers from London to Belfast prompted Sinn Fein to block the regular meetings of the Executive Committee, essentially bringing the formal work of the Assembly to a standstill.
Executive Committee meetings resumed in late November following a DUP-Sinn Fein agreement on a road map for devolving authority for policing and justice affairs. In addition, the parties agreed on a system for choosing a justice minister. Although Executive Committee ministerial portfolios are normally allocated based on party strength, the two sides asserted that given the sensitive nature of this position, the new justice minister would be elected by a cross-community vote in the Assembly.
Nevertheless, progress on transferring police and justice powers to the devolved government remained slow.
Northern Ireland and Beyond
Nationalists increasingly warned that the failure to do so could lead to renewed political instability. In late January , then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and then-Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen convened a summit with the parties to try to hammer out a deal and set a date for the devolution of authority for policing and justice affairs. On February 4, , the DUP and Sinn Fein announced that they had reached the Hillsborough Agreement, setting April 12, , as the date for the devolution of policing and justice authority from London to Belfast.
As part of the deal, the Hillsborough Agreement also established a timeline for developing a new mechanism to address how contentious sectarian parades in the region were managed. On April 12, as agreed and for the first time in 38 years, London transferred power over policing and justice affairs to Belfast. Police reforms have long been recognized as a key element in achieving a comprehensive peace in Northern Ireland.
Human rights organizations accused the RUC of brutality and collusion with loyalist paramilitary groups. Defenders of the RUC pointed to its tradition of loyalty and discipline and its record in fighting terrorism. The Good Friday Agreement called for an independent commission to make recommendations to help "ensure policing arrangements, including composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos and symbols, are such that Northern Ireland has a police service that can enjoy widespread support from In September , this independent commission the so-called Patten Commission released a report with recommendations.
It proposed a new name for the RUC, a new badge, and new symbols free of the British or Irish states.
In May , the Blair government introduced the Police Bill in the UK House of Commons, and maintained that the reform bill was faithful to the Patten report's "broad intention" and "detailed recommendations. London responded that amendments would deal with human rights training, promoting recruitment of Catholics and Protestants, and oversight responsibilities. To help ensure nationalist support, London proposed further concessions in July , including halving the antiterrorist "Special Branch" and prohibiting new recruits from using plastic bullets.
Sinn Fein maintained that the changes in the police service were largely cosmetic and continued to charge that the new PSNI—like the RUC before it—would be unduly influenced by elements of the security services opposed to the peace process. Following the suspension of Northern Ireland's devolved institutions in October , Sinn Fein asserted that its acceptance of the PSNI and the Policing Board hinged on a deal to revive the devolved government and the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to a restored Assembly and Executive.
As noted previously, in January , Sinn Fein members voted to support the police and join the Policing Board. Sinn Fein members assumed their places on the Policing Board in late May , following the reestablishment of the devolved government. Although some nationalists viewed this decision as premature, many unionists applauded it, viewing the rule as unfairly discriminating against Protestants. According to one news report, of the new officers recruited to join the PSNI between and , only 77 were Catholic.
In July , the British army ended its year-long military operation in Northern Ireland in the context of the peace process and the improved security situation. Although a regular garrison of 5, British troops remains based in Northern Ireland, they no longer have a role in policing and may be deployed worldwide. In light of the political agreement to restore Northern Ireland's devolved government, the transfer of policing and justice powers in , and the extensive police reforms, many analysts view the implementation of the most important aspects of the Good Friday Agreement as having been completed.
In March , the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive concluded its first full term in office in 40 years. Nevertheless, deep distrust persists between unionists and nationalists and their respective political parties. A series of events over the past few years—including protests over the use of flags and emblems, a crisis over implementing welfare reform, a controversy over a past deal for republican "on the runs," and the arrest of a Sinn Fein leader in connection with the murder of a former IRA member—have highlighted the fragility of community relations and periodically threatened the stability of the devolved government.
The immediate cause of the devolved government's collapse in January was a scandal over flaws in a renewable energy program the Renewable Heat Incentive, or RHI , initially overseen by First Minister Foster when she served as Northern Ireland's Enterprise Minister in Sinn Fein called for Foster to temporarily stand aside as First Minister while an investigation was conducted into the energy scheme; she refused, and McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister in protest. Under the rules governing Northern Ireland's power-sharing arrangements, if either the First Minister or the Deputy First Minister resigns without a replacement being nominated , the government cannot continue and new elections must be held.
New elections were called for March 2, Arlene Foster led the DUP's campaign, but McGuinness stepped down as Sinn Fein's northern leader due to health reasons he passed away a few weeks after the election. Other points of contention included the introduction of a potential Irish Language Act—a long-standing nationalist demand to give the Irish language the same official status as English in Northern Ireland—and legalizing same-sex marriage.
As seen in Table 1 , the number of Northern Ireland Assembly seats contested in was 90 rather than because of previously agreed reforms to reduce the size of the Assembly. Table 1. The DUP retained the largest number of seats, but Sinn Fein was widely regarded as the biggest winner given its success in reducing the previous gap between the two parties from 10 seats to 1. For the first time in the Assembly, unionist parties will not have an overall majority a largely symbolic status because of the power-sharing rules but highly emblematic for the unionist community.
With fewer than 30 seats, the DUP also lost its unilateral ability to trigger a "petition of concern," a procedure used by the DUP to block legislation on various social policy issues, including same-sex marriage. At the same time, the election results reinforced the DUP and Sinn Fein as the dominant voices for their respective communities, suggesting continued and possibly increased polarization in Northern Ireland's politics.
Two years after Assembly elections, Northern Ireland remains without a devolved government. Negotiations have proceeded in fits and starts but appear to be stalemated at present. Some analysts suggest that the June UK general election, which resulted in Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party losing its majority in the House of Commons and forming a minority government that relies on support from the DUP, has hardened the positions of the DUP and Sinn Fein and made reaching an agreement on a new devolved government more difficult.
Past & Present: The 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland - Beyond Skin
In February , media reports signaled that the DUP and Sinn Fein were close to reaching a deal to restore the devolved government. No deal materialized, however. DUP leaders apparently judged that the party's base would not support a possible "package deal" addressing both the Irish and Ulster Scots languages and other cultural matters.
phon-er.com/js/hollywood/3d-rollercoaster-rush-jurassic-2.php Arlene Foster contended that it was not a "fair and balanced package" and there was "no current prospect" for reestablishing Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions; she also urged the UK government to "start making policy decisions. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley has stated that "devolved government is in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland. In February , Secretary of State Bradley and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney met with Northern Ireland's five main political parties; news reports indicate that both Bradley and Coveney pledged to present proposals to restart negotiations.
Analysts suggest that any significant progress on reestablishing the devolved government likely will only occur after Brexit and the backstop issue are resolved see "Possible Implications of Brexit" for more information. Several commentators have speculated that the British and Irish governments might seek to establish some sort of joint authority if a devolved government cannot be formed, but this approach is largely viewed as a nonstarter for the DUP and other unionists who would be leery of giving Dublin a formal role in Northern Ireland affairs.
In the continued absence of a devolved government, Sinn Fein has called for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference—provided for in the Good Friday Agreement to promote bilateral cooperation between British and Irish government ministers—to be reconvened it has not met since the DUP-Sinn Fein power-sharing agreement of In late , Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar appeared to support this idea, but also noted that reviving the intergovernmental conference should not be construed as "joint rule.
Over the past few years, the Northern Ireland political parties and the British and Irish governments have made several attempts to resolve outstanding issues related to the peace process, reduce tensions between the unionist and nationalist communities, and promote reconciliation. Such efforts also have sought to address concerns such as ongoing sectarian strife, paramilitary and dissident activity, and Northern Ireland's legacy of violence often termed "dealing with the past".
In particular, Haass was tasked with setting out recommendations by the end of on dealing with the past and the sectarian issues of parading, protests, and the use of flags and emblems. At the end of December , Haass released a draft proposal outlining the way forward in these areas, but was unable to broker a final agreement among the Northern Ireland political parties participating in the talks. During the summer of , the devolved government was tested by financial pressures and disagreement over UK-wide welfare reforms passed by the UK parliament in February but which Sinn Fein and the SDLP opposed implementing in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland also faced significant spending cuts given the imposition of austerity measures throughout the UK. In September , then-First Minister Peter Robinson asserted that the current governing arrangements were "no longer fit for purpose" and called for new interparty discussions to improve Northern Ireland's institutions and decisionmaking processes. The talks also would address the issues previously tackled by Richard Haass in managing parades and protests, the use of flags and emblems, and dealing with the past.
On December 23, , the Northern Ireland political parties and the British and Irish governments announced that a broad, multifaceted agreement had been reached on financial and welfare reform; governing structures; and the contentious issues of parades, flags, and the past see " Ongoing Challenges " for more information on these latter provisions.
As part of the resulting "Stormont House Agreement," the five main political parties agreed to support welfare reform with certain mitigating measures , balance the budget, address Northern Ireland's heavy economic reliance on the public sector, and reduce the number of Executive departments and Assembly members over the next few years to improve efficiency and cut costs. London and Dublin hailed the Stormont House Agreement as a welcome step forward.
The five main Northern Ireland political parties also appeared largely satisfied with the new agreement, despite some reservations. Some Alliance and UUP members worried that the accord did not make greater progress toward resolving the parades issue, while Sinn Fein and the SDLP expressed disappointment that the deal did not call for an Irish Language Act, a bill of rights for Northern Ireland, or a public inquiry into the murder of Belfast lawyer Patrick Finucane. In early , as promised in the Stormont House Agreement, the devolved government brought forward a welfare reform bill to enact the required changes.
In March , however, as the bill was nearing completion in the Assembly, Sinn Fein announced it would block the bill. Sinn Fein accused the DUP of reneging on commitments to fully protect current and future welfare claimants and argued that the UK government must provide more money to assist welfare recipients negatively affected by the reforms.
The failure to resolve the welfare reform issue also stalled implementation of the other aspects of the Stormont House Agreement, including measures aimed at dealing with sectarian issues and the past. Some observers and analysts worried that the continued impasse was increasingly threatening to collapse the devolved government. On September 3, , the UK and Irish governments decided to convene a new round of cross-party talks. Sinn Fein asserted that the IRA had "gone away" and no longer existed.
Nevertheless, the McGuigan killing and Storey's arrest renewed lingering unionist concerns about continuing IRA activities and further complicated efforts to implement the Stormont House Agreement. After 10 weeks of talks in the fall of on the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and the legacy of paramilitary activity, the British and Irish governments, the DUP, and Sinn Fein reached a new "Fresh Start Agreement" on November 17, Many Northern Ireland political leaders and human rights groups were dismayed that negotiators failed to reach final agreement on establishing new institutions to deal with the past, as called for in the Stormont House Agreement.
A key part of the Fresh Start Agreement focused on welfare reform and improving the stability and sustainability of Northern Ireland's budget and governing institutions. The new accord also confirmed institutional reforms originally outlined in the Stormont House Agreement.
These reforms included reducing the size of the Assembly from to 90 members, which would have effect from the first Assembly election after the May election and was thus implemented in the March snap elections. The Stormont House Agreement also decreased the number of government departments from 12 to 9 and made provision for an official opposition in the Assembly.
Paramilitary activity was the other main issue addressed in the Fresh Start Agreement. The new accord established "fresh obligations" on Northern Ireland's elected representatives to work together toward ending all forms of paramilitary activity and disbanding paramilitary structures. It also called for enhanced efforts to combat organized crime and cross-border crime.
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Although Northern Ireland has made considerable progress in the years since the Good Friday Agreement, the search for peace and reconciliation remains challenging. Controversial issues include bridging sectarian divisions and managing key sticking points especially parading, protests, and the use of flags and emblems ; dealing with the past; curbing remaining paramilitary and dissident activity; and furthering economic development.
As noted, the Haass initiative, the Stormont House Agreement, and the Fresh Start Agreement all attempted to tackle at least some aspects of these long-standing challenges. Some measures agreed in these successive accords have been delayed amid the current absence of a devolved government. Significant concerns also exist about the possible implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland. Observers suggest that Northern Ireland remains a largely divided society, with Protestant and Catholic communities existing in parallel.
Peace walls that separate Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods are perhaps the most tangible sign of such divisions. Estimates of the number of peace walls vary depending on the definition used. Northern Ireland's Department of Justice recognizes around 50 peace walls for which it has responsibility; when other types of "interfaces" are included—such as fences, gates, and closed roads—the number of physical barriers separating Protestant and Catholic communities is over Furthermore, experts note that schools and housing estates in Northern Ireland remain mostly single-identity communities.
Some analysts contend that sectarian divisions are particularly evident during the annual summer "marching season," when many unionist parades commemorating Protestant history are held. Although the vast majority of these annual parades by unionist cultural and religious organizations are not contentious, some are held through or close to areas populated mainly by Catholics some of whom perceive such parades as triumphalist and intimidating.
During the Troubles, the marching season often provoked fierce violence. Many Protestant organizations view the existing Parades Commission that arbitrates disputes over parade routes as largely biased in favor of Catholics and have repeatedly urged its abolition. Although the Hillsborough Agreement called for a new parading structure to be established by the end of , this process quickly stalled. The DUP-Sinn Fein-led Northern Ireland Executive proposed new parades legislation in mid that would have abolished the Parades Commission and promoted local solutions to disputed marches.
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However, the Protestant Orange Order—a group at the center of many contentious parades in the past—opposed several elements of the plan. The DUP asserted that it a new parading structure would not succeed without the support of the Orange Order. Frictions between the unionist and nationalist communities were also highlighted by a series of protests in late early following a decision to fly the union UK flag at Belfast City Hall only on designated days, rather than year-round nationalist city councilors had originally wanted the flag removed completely but agreed to a compromise plan to fly it on certain specified days instead.
The protests, mostly by unionists and loyalists, occurred in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland, and some turned violent. Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Northern Ireland's problems are rooted in physical and historical geography: small resource base, peripheral location, violent conquest, repression and ruthless emargination of the native population by the Protestant settlers.
At the time of partition, many areas already had a Catholic majority, and the Catholic population is increasing faster, thereby undermining the Prot Northern Ireland's problems are rooted in physical and historical geography: small resource base, peripheral location, violent conquest, repression and ruthless emargination of the native population by the Protestant settlers.
At the time of partition, many areas already had a Catholic majority, and the Catholic population is increasing faster, thereby undermining the Protestant position. Britain gains no advantage by keeping Northern Ireland.
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Nevertheless, this solution is not going to be cheap, not merely because of opposition by Protestant loyalists, but also because of the economic weakness of both Irelands. Unlike other books on the subject, this one goes to the heart of the matter: Britain would be serving her own interest by easing reunification of Ireland, albeit gradually and cautiously. In this perspective, the conclusion is that history is inexorably moving beyond Northern Ireland. Audience: European Community administrators and planners, diplomats, politicians, students in Political Science, Economics, History and Geography.
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