The Three Strands

The Agreement sought to build relationships within Northern Ireland; between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; and between Britain and Ireland.

It is divided into three strands:

  • Strand One set up the power-sharing Assembly and Executive (and a Civic Forum, which is not currently in operation);
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  • Strand Two established an Irish dimension to the governing arrangements for Northern Ireland. The North–South institutions (the North–South Ministerial Council (NSMC) and the North–South Implementation Bodies encourage co-operation that benefits both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is important for nationalists; and
  • Strand Three established ‘East–West’ institutions (the British–Irish Council and the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference) to encourage co-operation and develop good relations between Britain and Ireland. These are forums where the two Governments discuss Reserved Matters which are not the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.