On February 22, 1995, a British-Irish master plan was presented in Belfast as the basis for the all-party negotiations on Northern Ireland, in which the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain agreed to give up their claims to sovereignty over Northern Ireland (further key points: election of a new Belfast parliament by the Northern Irish population, establishment of a pan-Irish authority). In the elections for a body for peace talks on May 30, 1996, the Protestant UUP received 24%, the DUP 19%, the SDLP 21% and Sinn Féin (President G. Adams) 15.5% of the vote. Nevertheless, Sinn Féin initially stayed away from the all-party talks that began on June 10, 1996 and were chaired by the former American Senator George Mitchell (* 1933)excluded because the IRA, which is close to her, had already become active again on February 9, 1996, in view of the sluggish understanding and the British demand for disarmament which she rejected as a precondition for the participation of Sinn Féin.
After a renewed declaration of non-violence by the IRA (in force from July 20, 1997), Sinn Féin took part in the protracted Northern Ireland talks from September 1997 (like the Protestant Ulster Democratic Party briefly suspended in early 1998). On April 10, 1998 the negotiating partners (representatives of the Irish and British governments as well as the Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants from eight parties) signed a peace agreement characterized by strong compromises and confirmed by a referendum of the all-Irish population on May 22, 1998 (»Good Friday Agreement «). In Northern Ireland, 71.12% of the population were in favor of the peace agreement and in the Republic of Ireland 94% were in favor of a constitutional amendment that would give up Ulster’s right to reintegrate. In the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly (“Northern Ireland Assembly” with seat in Stormont, 108 members) on June 25, 1998, the moderate parties prevailed; on July 1, 1998 D. Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), elected “First Minister” of the regional government.
Self-government and disarmament
In the face of new terrorist attacks by extremist factions (especially in Omagh on August 15, 1998, then tightening of the laws to combat terrorism in Great Britain and Ireland) and because of the ongoing dispute over the disarmament of paramilitary groups, the implementation of the peace agreement came to a standstill. In December 1999, the Northern Irish regional government began work under Trimble (end of British direct rule). Due to the lack of success in disarming the underground movements and in particular because of the IRA’s refusal to carry it out on “British terms”, the British government suspended Northern Ireland’s autonomy in February 2000 (restoration of direct administration).
According to politicsezine, at the beginning of May 2000, however, the heads of government of Great Britain and Ireland adopted a joint declaration that promised the early reinstatement of the Northern Irish Parliament and the other suspended institutions, as well as the release of the last IRA prisoners and the dismantling of the British military presence in Northern Ireland; Immediately afterwards, the IRA announced its willingness to compromise on the disarmament issue (offer to re-establish contacts with the neutral disarmament commission, as well as disclosure and regular inspection of the arsenal [first carried out at the end of June 2000]). As a result, the Northern Irish regional government was reinstated on May 30, 2000. Trimble increasing its domestic political backing; In the general election on June 7, 2001, the UUP led by him suffered a sharp drop in votes, while the radical Protestant DUP under I. Paisley was able to gain significantly and Sinn Féin also became the strongest political force in the Catholic camp for the first time by doubling its mandates (their After many years of rejection, MEPs moved into offices in the British Parliament as their official seat in January 2002). On July 1, 2001, Trimble made his resignation as head of government of the regional government, which he had already announced in May, effective; This was then led on an interim basis by the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sir Reg Empey (* 1947; UUP). It was only when the IRA, under the influence of Sinn Féin, on October 23, 2001, promised the beginning of its disarmament and the destruction of its arsenal, that the failure of the all-party government, which was about to collapse, could be averted.
On November 6, 2001, Trimble reached his second attempt in the regional parliament for his re-election as “First Minister” of Northern Ireland. After renewed clashes within the regional government between the unionists and the Sinn Féin party, the British government suspended Northern Irish self-government again in October 2002. In early May 2003, the British and Irish Governments presented another joint peace plan, including: again held out the prospect of a reduction in British troops in Northern Ireland and announced the establishment of an international control body (with representatives from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and the USA) to monitor the activities of the republican and loyalist underground organizations.
The regional parliament elections held on November 26, 2003 resulted in a polarization that made it difficult to overcome the crisis. a. Sinn Féin (23.5% of the vote) and the radical DUP (25.7%) who refuse to cooperate with her. By Trimble guided UUP reached 22.7%, SDLP 17%; Non-denominational parties such as the Alliance Party and the Women’s Coalition lost a lot. A government was formed in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement despite intensive mediation efforts by v. a. failed to materialize by the UK government in 2004; The dispute over the disarmament of the IRA remained decisive. With their declaration of July 28, 2005 to end the “armed struggle”, the Northern Irish peace process received a new impetus; in response, the British announced a radical reduction in the military presence in Northern Ireland. In January 2007, a party congress of the Sinn Féin voted for the recognition of the Northern Irish police and judiciary, which it had fought for decades.