Ending armed conflict in the UK (Northern Ireland)


Negotiations mediated by the Government of USA resulted in the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement, which ended almost three decades of armed conflict and intercommunal violence in Northern Ireland.

Increasing tensions between Northern Ireland’s Loyalist and Republican communities escalated into armed conflict in the late 1960s. Throughout the 1970s, a complex low-intensity conflict known as “The Troubles” took place between paramilitary groups, with ostensibly neutral British troops and police who were deployed to manage the conflict also becoming embroiled in the fighting. Efforts to end the conflict began as early as 1973, however it was not until the 1990s that meaningful progress was made.1 A key figure in the lead-up to the negotiations was Northern Irish politician John Hume, whose consistent work for peace in the region earned him the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize along with David Trimble, leader of the dominant Loyalist political party, who also advocated for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.2 Multi-party negotiations hosted by a representative of the Government of the USA began in Belfast in 1997 between the governments of Ireland and the UK, along with most of the political parties of Northern Ireland.3 The talks culminated with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (also called the Belfast Agreement) on 10 April 1998.4

In addition to ending the armed conflict and laying out terms for disarmament, the Agreement contained comprehensive provisions regarding the future of Northern Ireland. These included the stipulation that although the territory would remain as part of the UK, unification with Ireland was possible if the populations of Ireland and Northern Ireland approved of such a development in referenda. Furthermore, the Agreement established a consociational political assembly in Northern Ireland, which required the approval of both Loyalists and Republicans to pass legislation.5 A framework for cooperation and closer relations with Ireland was also established via the formation of the North South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.6 Northern Irish citizens were also guaranteed the right to identify as British, Irish, or both, and became entitled to enjoy full citizenship in Ireland and the UK. Although a few relatively minor Republican factions rejected the peace, Northern Ireland has largely been free from conflict since 1998.7

1 Landon E. Hancock. “The Northern Irish Peace Process: From Top to Bottom.” International Studies review, Vol. 10, No. 2. (2008)

2 The Nobel Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize 1998. (Nobel Prize, 2020) Available at: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1998/press-release/ (Accessed 05/11/2020)

3 United States Institute of Peace. “George Mitchell: Building Peace in Northern Ireland.” USIP. (2020) Available at: https://www.usip.org/public-education/educators/george-mitchell-building-peace-northern-ireland (Accessed 05/11/2020)

4 The Belfast Agreement, 1998. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-belfast-agreement (Accessed 05/11/2020)

5 Northern Ireland Assembly. Evolution of Devolution. (Northern Ireland Assembly, 2020) Available at: https://education.niassembly.gov.uk/post_16/evolution_of_devolution (Accessed 05/11/2020)

6 North South Ministerial Council. Areas of Co-Operation. (North South Ministerial Council, 2020) Available at: https://www.northsouthministerialcouncil.org/areas-of-cooperation (Accessed 05/11/2020); Conflict Archive on the Internet. Devolved Government British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC). (CAIN, 2019) Available at: https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/issues/politics/conference/ (Accessed 05/11/2020)

7 Peace Accords Matrix. Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement. (Krox Institute for International Peace Studies, 2020) Available at: https://peaceaccords.nd.edu/accord/northern-ireland-good-friday-agreement (Accessed 05/11/2020)

Start Year


End Year



Northern Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

UN Regional Group

Western Europe and Others

Type of Conflict

Horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict, Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

Local people and organisations and the governments of Ireland, the UK, and the USA




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