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Why Do Unionists Call It The Belfast Agreement

In 2004, negotiations took place between the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Féin, on an agreement on institution-building. These talks failed, but a document published by governments detailing changes to the Belfast Agreement became known as the “Global Agreement”. However, on 26 September 2005, it was announced that the Provisional Irish Republican Army had completely closed and “decommissioned” its arsenal. Nevertheless, many trade unionists, in particular the DUP, remained sceptical. Of the loyalist paramilitaries, only the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) had decommissioned weapons. [21] Further negotiations took place in October 2006 leading to the St Andrews Agreement. The agreement provided for the transfer of authority over certain policy areas from the British Parliament to a newly created assembly in Belfast, paving the way for paramilitary groups to give up their weapons and join the political process. It has contributed to a sharp reduction in violence, and the annual death toll, which peaked at 480 in 1972, has fallen to one figure in recent years. The vague wording of some provisions, called “constructive ambiguity”[8], helped ensure acceptance of the agreement and postponed debate on some of the most controversial issues. These include paramilitary dismantling, police reform and the standardisation of Northern Ireland. The participants in the agreement were two sovereign states (the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) with armed and police forces involved in the unrest. Two political parties, Sinn Féin and the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), were linked to paramilitary organisations: the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) respectively. The Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), which was linked to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), had withdrawn from the talks three months earlier.

The agreement establishes a framework for the establishment and number of institutions in three “policy areas”. The agreement also marked the end of a dispute between the two states over the names of their respective states: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland. The vague wording of some of the provisions (called “constructive ambiguity”) that helped ensure acceptance of the agreement at the time served to postpone debate on some of the most controversial issues – not particularly paramilitary dismantling, police reform and normalization. For the complete disarmament of all paramilitary groups, a date has been set for May 2000. This was not achieved and delayed the creation of the Assembly and The Executive because one of the four main parties in the Assembly – Sinn Féin – was “inextricably linked” to the largest paramilitary group, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), and the Unionists refused to share power with that party as long as PIRA remained armed. 4The constitutional relations with the Republic are essentially potential. It will only really exist if a majority of the population of Northern Ireland so wishes. This is what the principle of consent means, a principle that is at the heart of the agreement – the approval of a majority in Northern Ireland. .

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