Summary of the Agreement

22 April 1998

The Agreement covers issues under three strands:
Strand 1: The Government of Northern Ireland;
Strand 2: North-South Relationships;
Strand 3: British-Irish Relationships.

The following are some of the changes which will made if the Agreement is passed in referenda North and South.

Strand 1:
The Northern Ireland Assembly

1. Six members of an Assembly will be elected from each constituency in Northern Ireland to make up a total
of 108.
2. The elections will use Proportional Representation. This means you vote No 1, 2, 3, etc, for candidates in
order of preference. This is the system currently used in local elections. This may allow for some smaller
parties to win seats.
3. The Assembly will be power-sharing. So to win agreement on key issues, the consent of both Unionists
and Nationalists will be required.
4. The Assembly will have Committees for different areas of Government, e.g. agriculture, tourism, etc.
5. The Chairpersons of the Committees will be appointed Ministers in the new Government of Northern
Ireland, so there may, for example, be a Minister for Agriculture for Northern Ireland.
6. Ministers will be appointed according to the voting strength of their parties, so there will be some
Unionist and some Nationalist Ministers.
Strand 2:
North-South Structures

1. A new North-South Ministerial Council will be appointed. It will be made up of Ministers from the Northern
Ireland Assembly and the Dail.
2. All decisions will require agreement between Northern and Southern Ministers.
3. Northern Ministers will be required to take part in the new Council.
4. Northern Ministers will remain accountable to the Assembly, but they will be able to make decisions within
the area of their defined authority.
For example, a Northern Minister for Tourism will be able to make decisions about North-South tourism with the
agreement of the relevant Southern Minister.
5. The Assembly will function only as a shadow administration until such time as the North-South structures
have been set up. This means that the Assembly will be abolished unless there is agreement about
North-South structures.

Civic Forum
A consultative Civic Forum will be set up for Trades Unions, voluntary and community groups, business,
Churches, etc.
Strand 3:

British-Irish Structures
1. A new British-Irish Council will be set up with representatives from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales,
other areas in the UK, and the South.
2. There will also be an inter-governmental Conference for meetings between the British and Irish Governments.

Constitutional Change
1. Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution will be changed so that the nation of Ireland is defined in
terms of its people. This will give the right to anyone born in Ireland to be part of the Irish nation, should they
so choose.
2. Both the Irish Constitution and British constitutional law will be changed to commit both countries to
the principle of consent. The principle of consent states that there will be no change in the constitutional
status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of its people.

Rights
1. The European Convention on Human Rights will be made part of Northern Ireland law. This means that
instead of having to go to court in Europe in order to get the rights guaranteed by this Convention, people
will be able to use the Northern Ireland courts.
2. A new Human Rights Commission will be set up to review laws and Governmental practices.
3. A joint North-South commission will be set up to review rights in each jurisdiction.

Victims
The parties to the Agreement acknowledge the suffering of victims. They commit themselves to continuing
support for victims, and they will look positively at the case for increased financial support for
reconciliation work.

Economic Rights
1. The British Government commits itself to a new economic strategy for Northern Ireland. They will also
improve measures on employment equality.

Irish Language
2. The British Government will take action to promote the Irish language, including a requirement that the
Department of Education will encourage it, and the Government will also make Telefis na Gaeilige
more widely available.

Decommissioning
1. All parties to the Agreement commit themselves to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations
and to achieve this within two years of the Agreement being approved.

Security
1. So far as it is compatible with security needs the British Government will reduce the numbers and role of the
Armed Forces in Northern Ireland, remove security installations, and do away with emergency powers.

Policing and Justice
2. An independent Commission will be set up to make recommendations for future policing. It will be asked to
propose ways to ensure that policing arrangements, including composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos
and symbols can enjoy widespread support from the community as a whole.

Review of the Criminal Justice System
There will be a review of the criminal justice system which will examine, among other issues, the methods of
appointments, the independence of the prosecution process, and law reform.

Prisoners
Prisoners belonging to organisations on ceasefire will be released early.
Comment
Strand 1:
Broadly speaking, most Unionists are comfortable with an Assembly for Northern Ireland but fear that power-sharing may give Nationalists too much power. Some Nationalists believe power-sharing will give them the
protection they need, others fear a return to a Unionist-dominated Stormont. Some people are worried that there
will be so many checks and balances that no decisions at all will be made.
Strand 2: Many Unionists fear that North-South structures will give the Republic of Ireland some control over
Northern Ireland. However, North-South institutions are important to Nationalists as a sign that Northern Ireland
will not be dominated by Unionists.
Some Points in the New Agreement