Northern Irish people prepare to commemorate the agreement, which ended three decades of violence. Signed on April 10, 1998, which fell on Good Friday that year, the pact adopted that name, although it is also known as the Belfast Agreement, after the city where it was signed. Looking ahead to the 25th anniversary of its signing, the Police warn of possible attacks by dissidents of the IRA terrorist group and on the eve of President Joe Biden’s visit.
The historic Belfast Agreement turns 25 and there will be commemorations in that city, but there is also talk of a new terrorist threat, as warned by local authorities in Northern Ireland.
Police said armed IRA dissidents, now known as the New IRA, are planning violent attacks over the Easter holiday weekend and just as the British region prepares for US President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit. for next week.
The deputy chief of the Police Service, Bobby Singleton, assured that the institution has received information about the planning of violent acts around a parade in the city of Londonderry, on April 10, Easter Monday.
The date coincides with the anniversary of the so-called Good Friday Agreement, which culminated in three decades of sectarian disputes between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
There is “potential for dissidents to try to drag us into disorder and then experience tells us where that happens, which can often become the platform for an attack on our officers,” Singleton stressed.
Based on the assessments of the Northern Irish authorities, police officers, military personnel and employees of the prison system; as well as their families would be the main targets of the dissidents.
“The style of attack that we are dealing with and trying to thwart is armed assaults and bombings against these people by a small number of determined dissident terrorists,” Police Chief Simon Byrne said.
The risk even led UK authorities last March to raise the terror threat level in Northern Ireland to “severe”, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.
Concerns are growing after senior police officer John Caldwell was shot at by two masked men last February, seriously wounding him, while coaching a children’s soccer team in the city of Omagh, about 100 kilometers west of Belfast.
A peace agreement susceptible to disagreements after Brexit
While the peace fostered by the Good Friday Agreement has largely been maintained, the territory has been through multiple political crises that have weakened stability and increased divisions.
Among the disagreements is the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly has not met for more than a year, after the Democratic Unionist Party withdrew from the Government to protest the new trade rules for this country, after the Brexit.
Precisely one of the high points during the discussions for the divorce between London and Brussels, which entered into force on January 31, 2020, was the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol. It refers to the system of rules to govern trade in the only province of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with a member country of the European Union: the Republic of Ireland.
The negotiators designed a set of rules that guarantees the absence of a physical border, since not implementing a strong border separation has been considered a way above all to respect the so-called Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement, signed in 1998 and which ended with the bloody war
Among the guidelines, it was highlighted to allow Northern Ireland to remain in the single market of the EU and that customs controls are not at the borders but on the goods that are transported from the rest of the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland, since in case leaving British territory carry another tax provision.
However the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) It has prevented the formation of the joint Executive with the Republicans and the start of the sessions of the autonomous Parliament, after considering that the agreed agreements distance the region from the rest of British territory.
Last March, the government of Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, obtained support in Parliament for the so-called Windsor Agreement, which aims to reduce hecontrols in Northern Ireland and makes the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol more flexible.
However, it remains deeply unpopular with most Northern Irish unionists, who see it as undermining the region’s status as part of the United Kingdom.
What was the Good Friday Agreement?
It was a pact that fIt was negotiated by the governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom (to which Northern Ireland belongs), as well as Northern Ireland’s political parties, with the aim of establishing shared governance in the region and addressing issues such as release of political prisoners and demilitarization.
The objective of the agreement was to put an end to around 30 years of violence in the Northern Irish territory, a period known as “The Troubles” or “The Problems”.
By then, the region was experiencing an inter-religious conflict, which began in the 17th century with the colonization of British Protestants on Irish Catholic lands.
However, after the partition of Ireland in the 1920s, divisions remained in the British province between Republicans, who wanted a united Ireland, and Unionists, who supported British rule.
The conflict broke out amid sectarian riots in Belfast and elsewhere in the late 1960s.
The sectarian clashes left more than 3,600 people dead, mostly at the hands of paramilitary groups on both sides, including the self-styled Irish Republican Army (IRA) and pro-British Protestant groups generally known as “loyalists”.
The peace pact was finally signed in 1998, which recognized Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom, but also the principle of consent. That is to say, that a united Ireland could emerge if the majority of the people, in both jurisdictions of the island, voted for it.
Generally speaking, Northern Ireland has enjoyed peace for much of the 25 years since the Agreement was signed, with only a handful of splinter groups involved in sporadic attacks.
However, some parts of the agreement are vague. Veteran experts on the talks say there is a “constructive ambiguity”, with some pointing to the need to forge a compromise because there would be an open door to a single united Ireland, while the other side points out that Northern Ireland is guaranteed to North is part of the United Kingdom.
With Reuters and AP