The agreement reaffirms the commitment to “mutual respect, civil rights and religious freedoms of all members of the community.” The multi-party agreement recognised “the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance with regard to linguistic diversity”, in particular with regard to the Irish language, the Ulster Scots and the languages of other ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland, “all of which are part of the cultural richness of the island of Ireland”. The main issues that Sunningdale omitted and addressed in the Belfast Agreement are the principle of self-determination, the recognition of both national identities, British-Irish intergovernmental cooperation and legal procedures to make power-sharing compulsory, such as inter-community voting and the D`Hondt system for the appointment of ministers to the executive.   Former IRA member and journalist Tommy McKearney says the main difference is the British government`s intention to negotiate a comprehensive deal involving the IRA and the most intransigent trade unionists.  With respect to the right to self-determination, counsel Austen Morgan mentions two reservations. First, the transfer of territories from one State to another must be done by international agreement between the British and Irish Governments. Secondly, the people of Northern Ireland can no longer achieve a united Ireland alone; they need not only the Irish Government, but also the people of their Irish neighbour to support unity. Morgan also pointed out that, unlike the Ireland Act 1949 and the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, which were drafted under Sunningdale, the 1998 Agreement and the resulting UK legislation expressly provided for the possibility of a united Ireland.  The idea of the agreement was to get the two sides to work together in a group called the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly would take certain decisions previously taken by the British Government in London. The overall result of these problems was to damage unionists` confidence in the deal, which was exploited by the anti-deal DUP, which eventually overtook the pro-deal Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in the 2003 general election. The UUP had already resigned from the executive power-sharing branch in 2002 following the Stormontgate scandal, in which three men were accused of intelligence gathering. These charges were eventually dropped in 2005 on the controversial grounds that the persecution was not “in the public interest”. Immediately afterwards, one of the accused Sinn Féin members, Denis Donaldson, was denounced as a British agent.
Prior to the agreement, the Irish Constitution retained a territorial claim over Northern Ireland. The new provisions, adopted by referendum, stipulate that, although the Irish nation has a firm will to unite the island, such changes can only be made with the consent of a democratically expressed majority of the people in both jurisdictions of the island. .
Friday, October 15th, 2021
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