The Press and the Good Friday Agreement

When we think of the “Good Friday Agreement” of 1998, we generally think of the overwhelming positive impact it had in Northern Ireland. This blog, however, will explore the more negative reactions of the press, both short and long term, to the agreement with the aim to open the event up to greater debate.

The reaction of the English press was immediately positive, as seen in the “Hail Warriors Of Peace” article by John Major[1], in which the Agreement is seen as a massive success with only a minor possibility of future issues. Similarly, the Irish Independent ran a headline hailing it as a “Historic Day” where peace was finally achieved in the “ground-breaking document”.[2]

One week after the agreement was signed, however, the scepticism began to creep into the Irish press. The general opinion of the public was still in support of the Agreement, as the article argues, it was still early days as the referendum was still 5 weeks away and there were strong doubts over the potential extremism of the Sinn Fein and the SDLP parties.[3] The Irish Independent would go on, however, to publish increasingly sceptical headlines. The December 5th issue argues that the agreement was on thin ice due to a clash in which the Sinn Fein and the SDLP blamed the UUP for the collapse of a deal which would seal the new border and administrative set-up proposed by Tony Blair, which had initially been agreed upon.[4] This representation certainly contrasts with previous articles, which primarily paint the agreement in a positive light. The thought that the agreement could collapse is a polarised view of the agreement being a massive success, arguably creating an increased anxiety that there was a possibility of a repeat of the failed Sunningdale Agreement, which seemed to follow a similar process as the Good Friday Agreement, in which the hopes of many were built up only to be crushed as the Sunningdale Agreement failed to bring the desired peace and harmony in the Troubles.

When we researched further into the topic we found that there had been bomb-related incidents since the Good Friday Agreement showing that there was still opposition towards the agreement after it had been passed. For example, four months after the agreement was made a car bomb was set off in Omagh which killed 29 people and injured many more. It was reported to be the worst bombing which was related to the Good Friday Agreement. The bombing was carried out by dissident republicans who called themselves the “Real IRA.” (click here for the source) This bombing incident shows the extent some people were willing to go to to show their disapproval and discontent of the Good Friday Agreement.

In addition, the press reported an incident as recent as January 2013 involving loyalists whose protests were related to the union flag in Northern Ireland. They were also protesting about the police and many of the protestors were still angry about the terms of the agreement which they felt didn’t suit them. This shows that protests today have links to the effects of the Good Friday Agreement, so it is still a very contentious issue for many people in Ireland.

However, we found that the Good Friday Agreement can be seen to be a success in terms of promoting and ensuring peace between the two sides as overall there has been a huge decrease in violence since the agreement was made. Peace treaties and apologizes were made by both sides including the IRA apologizing for numerous incidents in an attempt to promote peace between the two ‘opponents.’ Obviously it must be noted that some of these peace treaties and agreements were not instantly forged as many took lots of time and negotiations until agreements were made.

[1] The Times, Saturday, 11 April 1998; p. 22.

[2] The Irish Independent, 11 April, 1998, p. 45

[3] The Irish  Independent, 17 April, 1998, p. 2

[4] The Irish Independent, 5 December, 1998.


The Good Friday Agreement

Our project is on the Good Friday Agreement and the impact it had on Northern Ireland at the time. We have collected a variety of primary sources depicting the situation in Northern Ireland. These included a newspaper article by the former British Prime Minister John Major, in which he highlights the process of peace and how successful the Good Friday Agreement has been so far. We have also analysed a poster by the Irish Women’s Coalition in which they make clear that the only choice at the time was to vote in favour of the Agreement, such was the tension in Northern Ireland at the time.

Analysing these sources allowed us to see what the agreement intended to do and what it actually achieved. We also collected an extract from the Agreement and an article from an Irish newspaper, but decided to analyse the first two as we felt that they provided more useful information about the Good Friday Agreement and the effects it had on Northern Ireland.