The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement signed on 10 April 1998 was a major development in the Northern Ireland peace process.
It comprised a Multi-Party Agreement signed by most of Northern Ireland's political parties and the British-Irish Agreement, an international agreement between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
Taken together, the Agreement repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920, abolished the Irish Republic's territorial claim to Northern Ireland and de-securitised the Ireland/Northern Ireland border.
Voters endorsed the Agreement in referendums held in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on 22 May 1998.
Northern Ireland Assembly
Strand 1 of the Agreement established a Northern Ireland Assembly and power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive. The former was elected in June 1998 following passage of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
Strand 2 established several North/South bodies to facilitate co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Finally, Strand 3 established a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and the British-Irish Council to facilitate east-west relations.
The British-Irish Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999, when certain powers were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The early years of devolution in Northern Ireland were unstable and the Assembly was often suspended for short periods.
"Direct Rule" from Westminster was reintroduced in October 2002, but the Assembly and Executive were restored in 2007 following the St Andrews Agreement of 2006. Responsibility for justice and policing was transferred to Belfast in 2010. The 2014 Stormont House Agreement also included the devolution of corporation tax, flexibility in the implementation of welfare reform and the creation of an opposition in the Assembly.
Following ten years of relatively stable devolved government, the Assembly and Executive collapsed after the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister in January 2017. Direct Rule was not reintroduced and Westminster passed primary legislation dealing with public spending and some other matters in Northern Ireland between 2017 and 2020.
Inter-party talks produced the New Decade, New Approach agreement in January 2020. The Assembly and Executive were restored later the same month.
Page last updated April 2021.