The Constitution Unit


NEW PROJECT: Perspectives on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland

5 July 2021

The Constitution Unit launches a new project today examining perspectives on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

Signatures of the main political actors on the Good Friday Agreement document

The Constitution Unit is launching a new project examining perspectives on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement of 1998.   

While the Agreement has had many successes, some aspects have not functioned as imagined in 1998, or indeed been implemented at all.  Among the various political actors and communities within Northern Ireland, and beyond, there are varying and complex understandings of what the Agreement means, how it has been implemented, why aspects of its implementation have stalled, and how the Agreement should work in the future.   

The project, which is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, will examine these understandings and perceptions, with particular focus on those in Northern Ireland. It is led by Dr Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit, who recently chaired the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, working with Research Assistant Conor Kelly. The team will examine how people feel about the Agreement and its implementation 23 years on, and how they think the Agreement can continue to help move Northern Ireland forward. Through interviews, focus groups, and documentary analysis, they will investigate the views of political parties, relevant groups, a wide range of experts, and the general public. Their approach is strictly apolitical, while also seeking to help find common ground in politically turbulent times.   

Project lead, Dr Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of UCL Constitution Unit said 

Having recently released the Final Report of the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, the Constitution Unit is keen to continue participating in conversations around Northern Ireland’s governance. We hope to engage all constitutional perspectives and give a voice to the various understandings that exist on how the Agreement should shape Northern Ireland’s future.’ 

Dr Etain Tannam, Associate Professor of International Peace Studies at Trinity College Dublin, a member of the project’s advisory panel, said: 

As the Agreement approaches its 25th anniversary in 2023, there is a need for academia, civil society, and the wider public to renew their engagement with it. There are distinct interpretations of the Agreement, but they can co-exist together productively so long as there is respect for different interpretations and a commitment to the Agreement's robust implementation. This project aims to examine these different perspectives and interpretations of the Agreement and examine methods of revitalising its implementation.’ 

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