Contemporary context

The Belfast Agreement, signed on 10 April 1998 - known as the Good Friday Agreement as it was signed on that day - was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process.

It was endorsed by referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and came into force on 2 December 1999.

Northern Ireland Assembly

The Agreement, and the subsequent Northern Ireland Act 2008, established a devolved Northern Ireland Assembly and power-sharing Executive.  It repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and abolished the Irish Republic’s territorial claim to Northern Ireland.

After disagreements between the parties on the power-sharing Executive the Assembly was suspended in October 2002 and direct rule re-established from Westminster.

The Northern Ireland Act 2006 gave the Secretary of State powers to dissolve it completely if a new First and Deputy First Minister were not elected by 25 November 2006.

St Andrews Agreement

On 13 October 2006 the British and Irish governments published the St Andrews Agreement, which amended the Belfast Agreement and set out other proposals.

Parliament then debated the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill in order to give legislative effect to those changes.

The Bill included a new target date for the restoration of devolved government to Northern Ireland by March 2007, although the Assembly did not meet again until May.  Power was restored to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 8 May 2007, and only fully completed in 2010. 

An Apology for Bloody Sunday

On 15 June 2010, the British Prime Minister David Cameron made a statement in the House of Commons, following the outcome of the twelve-year Saville Inquiry.  He announced that the Bloody Sunday killings of unarmed civilians by members of the British army in 1972 were "unjustified and unjustifiable" and said the government was "deeply sorry".