The age of consent, 1992–2018
in From Partition to Brexit
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This chapter examines the Irish Government’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process, from its embryonic, almost imperceptible, origins during the early 1990s to the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. It begins with evaluating Albert Reynolds’s strategy for establishing a sustainable IRA ceasefire through collaboration with John Hume and Gerry Adams, and by engaging the British and US administrations. It demonstrates how Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair paved the way for all-party talks culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The chapter considers the Irish Government’s handling of issues arising from the peace process, such as decommissioning IRA weapons and policing, and demonstrates how a new power-sharing arrangement, based primarily on the DUP and Sinn Féin parties, was negotiated as part of the St Andrews Agreement in 2006. The chapter examines how these policies have been developed by Ahern’s successors as Taoiseach, Brian Cowan, Enda Kenny and Leo Varadkar.

The chapter concludes by examining how Brexit has subverted many of the assumptions on which Irish government policies towards Northern Ireland were predicated and has introduced profound uncertainty into Anglo-Irish relations. The final section evaluates the prospects for an end to partition.

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