Crisis in the North: Twenty years since the Good Friday Agreement


  • Shaun Harkin


The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), also known as the Belfast Agreement, is viewed as marking the end of the violent conflict often referred to as ‘the Troubles’ in the North of Ireland, that left more than 3,600 dead and more than 50,000 injured. The aim of the GFA was to create the conditions to ensure there would be no return to the grinding conflict of the preceding three decades. The northern state would transition to a functioning ‘normal’ modern democratic state much like Britain or the Republic of Ireland. Peace and prosperity were the prominent themes. Sectarian division would gradually disappear. However, twenty years on, Northern Ireland is still very much between war and peace. Much, minus the intensity of violence, has changed but far too much remains the same. The collapse of the Stormont Assembly in January 2017, the centrepiece of power sharing, and the present sharp political polarisation between Nationalism and Unionism is a stark reminder of the dysfunctional character of the northern state.