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Does the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, along with its subsequent development, provide the basis for a solution to the Northern Ireland problem, or is there in fact no solution to the Northern Ireland problem?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Northern Ireland conflict
  3. The Good Friday agreements
  4. Conclusion

?There has been no peace process so long in gestation as the one in Northern Ireland? (Cox, Guelke and Stephen, 2006:1). Northern Ireland has known three decades of violent conflicts in the twentieth century stuck between Nationalists hoping to achieve a united Ireland and Unionists whose desire to remain in the United Kingdom. In the wake of the ceasefire of the paramilitary organization on both sides and especially on the Irish Republican Army (IRA), an intense process of discussion between the governments and parties have taken place in 1997-1998, resulting in the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement on the 10th of April 1998, approved by a referendum in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on the 22nd of May 1998. As Bill Clinton said, ?the Good Friday Agreement represents the very best hope for lasting peace in Northern Ireland? (2000:3).

However, there has already been previously a succession of attempts to solve the Northern Ireland problem. How is the Agreement of 1998 different? Are the great hopes justified or is it just an inter-war period, a pause in violence as some may think? We will discuss here that the Agreement was certainly an unprecedented success in the peace process that it hasn't resolved the problem of Northern Ireland in itself. To do so, we will first take a look at the content of the Agreement and then look at the reasons for its success. Finally, we will examine its limits that left the Irish question unanswered.

[...] A lot of solutions have been proposed to help solve the Northern Ireland problem ?from full integration of Northern Ireland into Great Britain, to devolution, independence, repartition, and eventually Irish unification, with a variety of models for each proposal? (Wolff, 2001:170). The Good Friday Agreement of 1998, however, seems to be the most successful step in the road to peace, as it ?signaled a profound transformation in the politics of Northern Ireland? (Cox, Guelke and Stephen, 2006:24), so that some have argued that it represents a model for resolving historic conflicts around the world (MacMahon, 2007). [...]

[...] Beggan D., Indurthy R ?Explaining Why the Good Friday Agreement is Likely to Bring a Lasting Peace in Northern Ireland?. Peace & Change, Vol Issue pp.331-356. Ruane J., Todd J Politics of Transition? Explaining Political Crises in the Implementation of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement?. Political Studies, Vol.49, Issue pp.923-941. Mitchell D ?Sticking to Their Guns? The Politics of Arms Decommissioning in Northern Ireland, 1998-2007?. Contemporary British History, Vol Issue pp.341-361. Wolff S Road to Peace?? World Affairs, Vol Issue pp.163-171. [...]

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