Contemporary context

The Belfast Agreement signed on 10 April 1998—known as the Good Friday Agreement—was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process.

It was endorsed by referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and came into force on 2 December 1999.

Northern Ireland Assembly

The Agreement, and the subsequent Northern Ireland Act 1998, established a devolved Northern Ireland Assembly and power-sharing Executive. It repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and abolished the Irish Republic’s territorial claim to Northern Ireland.

Following difficulties over the detailed implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the Assembly was restored after the passage of the Norther Ireland Act 2006 and the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006. After more legislation, responsibility for justice and policing was passed to the Assembly in 2010 and the Assembly and Executive have responsibility for health, education, social services, justice, policing and other devolved areas. Further legislation to fine tune the devolution settlement was passed in 2014.

The Stormont House Agreement of December 2014 included a range of potential changes for Northern Ireland, including on devolution of corporation tax, flexibility in welfare reform implementation, the creation of an opposition in the Assembly and establishment of a number of bodies to consider elements of the legacy of the past. The Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Act 2015 received Royal Assent (became law) in March 2015, whilst the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act 2015 received Royal Assent in November 2015 and the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Act 2016 received Royal Assent in May 2016.

Page last updated August 2016.