Our December blog, examined the optimism at the end of last year that a way could be found out of the political deadlock that has paralysed the Northern Ireland Assembly for the last two years. As our blog noted, although those hopes did not materialize, the fact that the discussions had reached such an advanced stage suggested that a solution might be found in the New Year. The announcement by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on 30 January that a Deal had been reached seems to justify that optimism.
A Historical Recap
The 1998 Belfast Good Friday Agreement (GFA) brought an end to 30 years of ‘The Troubles’. It struck a delicate balance between the competing interests of the Unionist and Nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. Key to its success was the removal of border infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the creation of a Power Sharing Executive (PSE) for Northern Ireland. The PSE allocates the position of First Minister to the largest political party in Northern Ireland, and the position of Deputy First Minister to the second largest. Other than the status implied by the titles, there is very little practical difference between the two roles.
Northern Ireland’s parliament, the Stormont Assembly, only actually sat for any extended period of time between 2007-2017, but, until the last set of elections, the DUP had always held the position of First Minister.
Brexit and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland voted by 56:44 to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The Unionist community largely voted ‘Leave’, believing it would consolidate Northern Ireland’s position within the UK; the Nationalist community generally voted ‘Remain’ for the opposite reason. Continue Reading The DUP and The Deal: Power-Sharing Returns to N Ireland