chapter  5
16 Pages

British–Irish relations and the Northern Ireland peace process: the importance of intergovernmentalism


Numerous accounts of the Northern Ireland peace process have noted the considerable time, effort and political capital that successive governments in London and Dublin devoted to this project from the early 1990s. Indeed, the Downing Street Declaration (DSD), made jointly by John Major and Albert Reynolds in 1993, might be seen as providing the formal launch of this process. Five years later, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), then spent nearly a further decade working through the difficulties of actually implementing the accord and achieving the stability of its institutions. However, whilst recognising the considerable energies that such efforts entailed, it can be argued that the real spadework for the peace process was done in the 1980s – in even more trying circumstances, and with less visible reward. Accordingly, this chapter focuses initially on the developments in British-Irish relations from this decade, arguing their importance in providing the basis for the more celebrated political achievements of the 1990s onwards, and then highlighting the linkages between the two.