This Essay examines the Belfast Agreement (or "Agreement") in the light of international law on self-determination and minority rights. Northern Ireland cannot be evaluated in a vacuum; already it is being suggested that the Northern Ireland peace process and the formula devised in the 1998 Belfast Agreement may serve as a model for other divided societies. Indeed, this possibility was raised by President Clinton during his September 1998 visit to Belfast and was reiterated by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on her more recent visit in December 1998. International law claims to address many of the issues central to ethnic conflict, preeminently self-determination, the legitimate basis for statehood, the exercise of state power, territorial integrity, and the cultural rights of groups and individuals. By comparing international law and the Belfast Agreement, this Essay examines whether the international instruments provide a useful measuring stick, or indeed whether the Belfast Agreement has anything to contribute to the current international debate on self-determination versus minority rights.
Christine Bell and Kathleen Cavanaugh,
'Constructive Ambiguity' or Internal Self-Determinatinon? Self-Determination, Group Accommodation, and the Belfast Agreement,
22 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1345
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol22/iss4/12