Question 3- Northern Ireland

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A Decision has now been reached what positive developments have occurred in Northern Ireland? Do any obstacles remain?

For decades in Northern Ireland there has been bombings, shootings and horrifying scenes of violence. However since the Downing Street Declaration in 1993, there has been various signs of stability and lasting peace in Northern Ireland but lasting peace will not be achieved unless obstacles are overcome. The Downing Street Declaration 1993 was the start of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The Downing Street Declaration was an agreement which deliberately set up talks between all political sides on forming a new government in Northern Ireland. The idea of the Downing Street Declaration was to create respect, trust and unity between Unionists and Nationalists. A vote was held to see whether the people of Northern Ireland wanted to become part of a united Ireland; only the sides who rejected the use of violence would be allowed a say in the running of Northern Ireland. The Irish government set up a Forum which was a series of meetings designed to promote trust between the two sides. Most of the political parties reacted positively to John Major and Albert Reynolds proposal, however Ian Paisley of the DUP and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein were unwilling to compromise and put their trust in rival parties. In my opinion, the breakthrough or the turning point was that there was no tolerance of violence; this is such a huge step as now political parties are finally resisting violence and saying that if you use violence then you will not be allowed a say in the running of Northern Ireland or the peace process. The Downing Street Declaration was failing and groups such as Sinn Fein and the DUP were not compromising so more was needed to bring the parties together and to get them to respect and trust each other, so the Good Friday Agreement was set up in early 1998. The Good Friday Agreement set up a new Northern Ireland assembly with 108 members from both sides. All the vital and important decisions would require the consent from both nationalist and unionist political groups. Also the policing would be reviewed in Northern Ireland. In addition, a north/south council was set up; made up of members of the new assembly and ministers from the Republic. But perhaps the biggest, most controvert ional change from the Good Friday Agreement was the early release of paramilitaries prisoners. This was so controvert ional as these prisoners were in prison for murder; so the families of the victims were outraged at this prospect, but to gain peace these prisoners had to be released to try and reform and re educate them, because if the government didn’t release them early, these prisoners would carry on where they left of; using violence to express their opinions and this would then be an obstacle to peace in Northern Ireland. The most important breakthrough made by the Good Friday Agreement was finally communities and political groups from Northern Ireland, for example Ian Paisley (DUP) and Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein), political rivals for years, never dream of speaking to each other, up until 10th April when the agreement was reached after nights on end of negotiating between key figures such as Blair, Mitchell, Clinton, Bertie. So the sense of cooperation, compromising and developing trust was the biggest breakthrough of the good Friday agreement because for decades both catholic and protestant would never even consider the thought of sharing territory, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the rule of Northern Ireland and power sharing with the opposing community. However, in October 2002 the hope of lasting peace in Northern Ireland was overshadowed, because the Northern Ireland assembly was suspended and shutdown; this was due to a breakdown in trust between the different political groups and sides in the assembly. This is why Tony Blair (PM) was forced to set up talks at Leeds Castle in September 2004. The Leeds Castle talks...
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