By: Guilherme Duraes
On September 26, 2005, international weapons experts announced the full disarmament of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The international community received the announcement as one of the final, and most important steps toward upholding and implementing the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998.
A majority of Northern Irish parties and the British and Irish national governments had signed the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, on April 10, 1998, to bring a halt to the violence that had devastated the region for decades.
Voters of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland approved the Agreement, and the Irish government had to amend its Constitution in order to remove the original territorial claim over Northern Ireland. As per the Agreement, Northern Ireland would remain a part of the United Kingdom (UK), with a devolved system of government. Residents of Northern Ireland could choose to claim either British or Irish citizenship, and they would be able to join the Republic of Ireland in the future, contingent upon a referendum in both Northern Ireland and the republic.
The central goal of the Agreement was to establish respect for civil and cultural rights in the region, justice and policing, and decommissioning of weapons. The Agreement also established intergovernmental and civil society organizations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and the UK and the Irish Republic and the UK. By 2005, the parties to the Agreement had reached most of their goals, but there were still uncertainties as for the decommissioning of weapons in the island of Ireland. Therefore, the announcement in September 2005 that the IRA no longer held weapons represented a milestone in the peace process, and virtually the final step in implementing the Agreement.
Though the main strands of the Irish Republican Army have now fully disarmed, some paramilitary groups continue to operate under the name of “IRA”. However, these groups did not thwart the peace process and the GFA is seen today as a rather successful international treaty.
Guilherme Duraes is a J.D. Candidate at Berkeley Law. He is a student contributor for Travaux.