By Jack Holland
Since March 24, 1972, when Britain suspended Northern Ireland’s local government, there have been a several attempts to reach an accord that would end the violence and achieve political stability. The most significant were:
The Sunningdale Agreement
November and December 1973
The agreement established a power-sharing executive that included Catholics in government for the first time and a Council of Ireland. The Irish government recognized the status of Northern Ireland and acknowledged that it could not be changed without the consent of the majority. It is opposed by the Provisional IRA and Unionists. The power-sharing government was brought down in May 1974 as a result of Unionist resistance.
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Secret talks begin with Sinn FTin.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement
Nov. 15, 1985
The agreement, between the Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, gave Dublin a consultative role in Northern Ireland for the first time, establishing a secretariat outside Belfast. Unionists rejected the agreement and campaign to have it removed.
Downing Street Declaration
Dec. 15, 1993
Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and British Prime Minister John Major issued a joint statement recognizing that the ending of divisions in Ireland can only come about through agreement and cooperation among all the Irish people, North and South. Major also stated that Britain has “no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland.”
Aug. 31, 1994
The IRA announces a cease-fire in its activities. Protestant paramilitaries follow suit in October.
Joint Frameworks Documents
Feb. 22, 1995
The documents are released outlining plans for a settlement that include a devolved assembly and cross-border bodies. The Irish government also states that it will introduce and support proposals for rewriting Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution, which claim jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. The revisions will embody the principle of consent.
Mitchell Commission Report on Decommissioning
Jan. 24 1996
The report advocates that the surrender and/or destruction of paramilitary arsenals take place in parallel with all-party talks, rather than being made into a precondition for Sinn FTin’s entry into those talks.
Feb. 9, 1996
A large bomb at Canary Wharf in London, marks the end of the IRA cease-fire. However, in late 1997, the IRA again halts its military activities, and Sinn FTin is allowed join the peace talks on condition that the new cease-fire holds.
April 10, 1998
The agreement is reached after lengthy discussion involving nearly all the Unionist, Loyalist and Nationalist parties involved in the conflict. It contains proposals for a devolved, power-sharing government in Belfast, cross-border bodies, a commission to review the Northern Ireland police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, commitment to pass legislation in the British parliament for the early release of paramilitary prisoners, and an equality agenda.