The overriding twin objectives of HM Government since the start of direct rule in 1972 have been to rid Northern Ireland of politically motivated violence, and to provide stable devolved institutions of government, involving all parts of the community and reflecting their different aspirations. The Agreement reached on Good Friday 1998, often referred to as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, which continues to underpin the Government’s policy in Northern Ireland, was the culmination of efforts over many years towards those objectives.
The Agreement and the subsequent Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended a number of times since 1998, particularly following the 2006 St Andrews Agreement) continue to form the basis of the constitutional structure in Northern Ireland.
The negotiations which led up to the Agreement had been divided into three ‘Strands’, and the Agreement was structured in this way:
The Agreement also adressed a number of other issues, including the devolution of policing and justice functions, the final stage of which was voted through by the Assembly on 9 March 2010.