The Belfast Agreement is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, because it was reached on Good Friday, 10 April 1998.
It was an agreement, between the British and Irish governments and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, about how Northern Ireland should be governed. The talks leading up to the Agreement dealt with issues that had caused conflict during the previous 30 years. The agreement aimed to set up a nationalist and unionist power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.
On the constitutional question of whether Northern Ireland should remain in the UK or become part of a united Ireland, it was agreed that there would be no change without the consent of the majority. This is called the ‘principle of consent’.
Not surprisingly the Agreement evoked different reactions. Die hards like Ian Paisley described the agreement as “treacherous” in that it included plans for a Northern Ireland assembly with power-sharing executive and cross-border institutions involving the Republic of Ireland. A particularly contentious element of the agreement was that it allowed for the release of paramilitaries on both sides, some of whom were convicted killers.