The Government looks forward to continuing to work with the British Government, including through the East-West institutions of the Agreement, to ensure that the full promise of the Good Friday Agreement in terms of peace, relations and reconciliation is fulfilled. The agreement recognised the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, reflecting the desire of the majority of citizens. But it also established a principle of consent – that a united Ireland could see the case if and when a majority of the population of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland wanted it. In this case, the British government would be obliged to hold a referendum and respect the result. These debates show that many Members of Parliament seem ready to reject the very arrangement that made peace in Northern Ireland possible. Under the agreement, it was proposed to build on the existing British-Irish interparliamentary body. Prior to the agreement, the body consisted solely of parliamentarians from the British and Irish parliaments. In 2001, as proposed in the agreement, it was extended to parliamentarians from all members of the British-Irish Council. There have been allegations of espionage and some political parties have said they cannot work together. Some people who opposed this peace process continued to be violent. The modern period of conflict in Northern Ireland began in the late 1960s and lasted more than three decades. What began as a civil rights movement – Catholics protested what they saw as discrimination by the Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland government – turned violent, with the involvement of paramilitary groups on both sides and the arrival of the British army in 1969.
During the three debates, the peace process was not at the centre of most Members. While the backstop received 795 mentions in the three debates we analysed, `Good Friday Agreement` and `Belfast Agreement` – two terms describing the same agreement – together received only 90. This suggests that the backstop discussion was generally not linked to the agreement. The agreement was reached after many years of complex discussions, proposals and compromises. Many people have made excellent contributions. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were then the leaders of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The talks were led by US Special Envoy George Mitchell.  As part of the agreement, the British Parliament repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (which had established Northern Ireland, divided Ireland and claimed a land claim over all of Ireland), and the people of the Republic of Ireland amended Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which affirmed a land claim to Northern Ireland.
The result of these referendums was a large majority in both parts of Ireland in favour of the agreement. In the republic, 56% of voters, 94% of the vote voted for the constitutional amendment. In Northern Ireland, turnout was 81%, with 71% in favour of the agreement. Although politicians continue to disagree, there is no return to the violence that was once observed in Northern Ireland. It`s a much more peaceful place and a lot says so because of the Good Friday Agreement. A new analysis that we have just completed shows that Parliament`s objection to the backstop amounts to an implicit rejection of the Good Friday Agreement, the agreement that ended the armed conflict in Northern Ireland. In fact, the reasons why Parliament is against the backstop are exactly what made the peace agreement work. The agreement provided for the transfer of authority over certain policy areas from the British Parliament to a newly created assembly in Belfast, paving the way for paramilitary groups to give up arms and join the political process.