Cease Fire: Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement

Annex B: Review of the Criminal Justice System

Prisoners

2. Prisoners affiliated to organisations which have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not benefit from the arrangements. The situation in this regard will be kept under review.

(Note: the GFA does not elaborate on ceasefire provision. This however does not mean that ceasefire was not the part of the accord. Before beginning of the peace negotiation that lead to the accord, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced a ceasefire on 19 July 19971. IRA's commitment to ceasefire was crucial to begin peace talks. And as soon as the moderate unionist leader Mr David Trimble, who was the leader of the biggest protestant party in Northern Ireland, was persuaded by United Kingdom's Prime Minister Mr. Tony Blair not to vote against the Government's proposals on weapons decommissioning at the all-party talks on Northern Ireland, the negotiation process proceeded2.)

  • 1. "Trimble Holds Key to Lasting Peace," Sunday Mail, July 20, 1997.
  • 2. "Give ceasefire a chance: Blair," Sydney Morning Herald, July 22, 1997.

Implementation History

1997

Intermediate Implementation

The ceasefire was announced in July of 1997, there was no report of ceasefire violation that year and peace talks continued.

1998

Full Implementation

Various groups violated the ceasefire in 1998. In January 1998, the peace talks nearly collapsed as the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) admitted its involvement in the killings of three Catholics, and thus its violation of the ceasefire. Following this admission, the UFF called off its campaign against killings of Catholics.3 Talks continued and the parties reached a final settlement and signed a comprehensive peace agreement on 10 April 1998.

Following the peace agreement, the Loyalist Volunteer Force – a Protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland – announced an “unequivocal” ceasefire before the referendum and campaigned for a no vote.4 After the referendum that took place on 22 May 1998, the hardliner republican group named the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA), a breakaway faction of the IRA, exploded a bomb in the town of Omagh, 55 miles west of Belfast, on 15 August 1998. In the attack, 28 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded.5 Immediately after the bombing, the RIRA apologized and called for a ceasefire.6

In August, the Irish Republican Socialist Party affiliated with the paramilitary group Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) announced a ceasefire, and thus an end to its 23 years of violence. Nevertheless, the group continued to oppose the peace agreement signed in April.7 The ceasefire was held for the rest of the year.

  • 3. “Protestant militia admits it broke ceasefire in Northern Ireland,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 23, 1998.
  • 4. “LVF Put Down Guns and Join 'No' Campaign,” Daily Record, May 16, 1998.
  • 5. “Bomb in Ulster, Exploding Among Shoppers, Kills 28,” New York Times, August 15, 1998.
  • 6. “Premiers Pray that Massacre Signals End of Troubles,” The Mirror, August 24, 1998.
  • 7. “Northern Ireland Terrorist Group Announces Ceasefire,” BBC, August 22, 1998.
1999

Full Implementation

While sporadic violence was carried out against IRA members and by the IRA itself, the ceasefire held.

2000

Full Implementation

Throughout the year, the major paramilitary groups from both sides respected the ceasefire. A dissident paramilitary group, the Continuity IRA, exploded a bomb at Mahon’s Hotel in Irvinestown on 7 February 2000.8 Splinter groups who opposed the peace agreement were posing a threat to the peace in Northern Ireland.9

  • 8. “Northern Ireland leaders condemn bomb attack, renew peace efforts,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, February 7, 2000.
  • 9. “Two Arrested in Northern Ireland Bomb Attack,” Toronto Star, February 26, 2000.[/fn]
2001

Full Implementation

No ceasefire violation was reported. 

2002

Full Implementation

No ceasefire violation was reported. 

2003

Full Implementation

No ceasefire violation was reported. 

2004

Full Implementation

No ceasefire violation was reported in 2001. However, there was a report that the security official had found a bomb-making factory in Starbane and arrested four dissident Irish republican members.10 There was also a report that the British Army had diffused a bomb in November, which was believed to be implanted by the breakaway faction of the IRA.11

  • 10. “World Briefing Europe: Northern Ireland Police Report Bomb Factory,” New York Times, April 30, 2004.
  • 11. “World Briefing Europe: Northern Ireland: Bombs Defused,” New York Times, November 26, 2004.
2005

Full Implementation

There were no reports of ceasefire. 

2006

Full Implementation

There were no reports of ceasefire. 

2007

Full Implementation

There were no reports of ceasefire.