American President George W. Bush meets with Northern Irish politicians nearly a decade after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Ian Paisley, left, was the First Minister of Northern Ireland when this photo was taken in 2007, and represented the Democratic Unionist Party in 1998. Martin McGuinness, right, was the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland when this photo was taken, and represented Sinn Fein in 1998.

Photograph by Chris Greenberg, courtesy the White House

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  • On April 10, 1998, leaders from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom signed two related treaties collectively known as the “Good Friday Agreement.” The current system of government in Northern Ireland is based on the Good Friday Agreement.
     
    The Good Friday Agreement addresses the fundamental conflict that has riven the island of Ireland for hundreds of years: the conflict between the smaller, British-affiliated northern part of the country and the larger, independent south. It does this in two ways.         
     
    First, the Good Friday Agreement acknowledges that the majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to remain a part of the United Kingdom. A substantial part of the agreement outlines the devolved system of government between the British and Northern Irish governments. (A devolved government is one that has been given rights and powers by a central government. In this case, the government of Northern Ireland was given rights and powers by the central British government.)
     
    Second, the agreement also acknowledges that a “substantial minority” of Northern Irish, and the majority of citizens of the Republic of Ireland, wish to have a united Ireland. To respect this political will, the Good Friday Agreement created “North-South” institutions to jointly address “social, cultural, economic, and other issues.”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    fundamental Adjective

    basic or primary.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    institution Noun

    established organization or set of organizing principles.

    social Adjective

    having to do with a community or other group of organized people.

    substantial Adjective

    large amount.

    treaty Noun

    official agreement between groups of people.