Anglo-Irish Agreement: What was it?

A guide explaining the agreement

Garret Fitzgerald and  Margaret Thatcher shake hands after signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement at Hillsborough in 1985,

Garret Fitzgerald and Margaret Thatcher shake hands after signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement at Hillsborough in 1985,

 

The central feature of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was that the Irish and British governments would consult regularly and formally on the administration of Northern Ireland.

It established the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference under which regular meetings between the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would take place.

A small secretariat of civil servants from the Irish and British sides was established at Maryfield near Stormont to service the conference and deal with issues as they arose.

Those issues included cross-Border co-operation on security, legal and political problems.

The British government accepted that there could be a united Ireland but only with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, while the Irish Government accepted the continued existence of partition as long as the people of the North wished to remain in the UK. The principle of consent was fundamental to the deal.

The agreement reflected a long-term move by the two governments away from an internal solution to the problems of Northern Ireland towards the negotiation of new all-Ireland constitutional arrangements and a new relationship between the two islands.

There was also a provision that allowed the parties in the North to take back substantial powers from the two governments if they agreed to a power-sharing administration.

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