Why Did The Good Friday Agreement SucceedHungcp
One way to answer this question of freedom of choice is to examine the aphorism so cited by SDLP leader Seamus Mallon that the 1998 agreement is “Sunningdale for slow learners.” 91 The implication of his statement is that if there had been “faster” learners in 1973/74, power-sharing and North-South cooperation on the basis of the principle of consent would have been successful much earlier and the war could have ended much earlier.92 It is difficult to see that, in the context of the violence of the early years of unrest, there were many things that union leader Brian Faulkner or any other union leader could have done to garner union support for power-sharing, or that another British Prime Minister (much less another Taoiseach), through violence or deception, could have faced fierce Unionist opposition to the Sunningdale agreement. Similarly, it is difficult to know who in the IRA could have carried the day to accept the legitimacy of a rebuilt Northern Ireland assembly and the union veto to the Irish agreement. (It is remarkable that Adams himself was pushed to the head by his criticism of the 1975 IRA armistice.) 93 Finally, it seems that there was no plausible Conservative leader (much less from the Labour Party) who could have won agreement on violent union opposition. In other words, Sunningdale failed, not because of poor leadership (or a “slow learner”), but because the circumstances were not conducive to an agreement that embodied the essential principles of consent, power-sharing and cross-border institutions. In other words, the structural changes that had just taken place after the riots broke out were a necessary condition for the adoption of the framework offered, but they were rejected in 1973 by Sinn Fein/the IRA and by trade unionists. Practitioners are under intense pressure to provide preconditions for negotiations. They fear that entry into open negotiations will be seen as a sign of weakness and that it will expose them to internal political criticism because they have abandoned important red lines.120 But the imposition of preconditions often becomes a straitjacket, as the other side will probably not give up a valuable influence without having some confidence in the overall outcome. The secret negotiations that preceded the agreement helped reduce the risk that Sinn Fein/IRA would abandon the preconditions, but the British and Irish governments came to understand that the only way to reach an agreement was to take that risk. It was essential that governments establish their credibility, that they impose the conditions after the signing of the agreement. Practitioners can learn an important lesson on how to avoid the preconditions trap. The agreement contains a complex set of provisions in a number of areas, including the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or the Belfast Agreement (Irish: Comhaonté Aoine an Chéasta or Comhaonté Bhéal Feirste; Ulster-Scots: Guid Friday Greeance or Bilfawst Greeance) is a couple of agreements signed on 10 April 1998 that put an end to most of the violence of the Troubles, a political conflict in Northern Ireland that had erupted since the late 1960s.