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The Belfast Agreement


The Belfast Agreement (or "Agreement"), to give it its proper name, reached at Stormont on Good Friday 1998, is an important document of Irish history. It is certainly a political text, but it has important legal effects. And these I wish to emphasize. As a member of the Ulster Unionist Party ("UUP") - elected later to the Northern Ireland Assembly - I accepted the Agreement on April 10 as the best opportunity for the return of power to all the people of Northern Ireland. At the time of writing (early March 1999), the major issue remains the decommissioning of Irish Republican Army ("IRA") arms before - I submit - Sinn Fein is entitled to its two seats on the Northern Ireland executive. Selected aspects of the Agreement are discussed in other contributions to this book. Given the representation herein of Irish nationalism, including Irish-America, I must begin by defining - against the condescension of some observers of Ireland - the plain people of Ulster as important historical actors.