After the Agreement

Every household in Northern Ireland received a copy of the Agreement. In a referendum on 22 May 1998, over 71 percent of those who voted supported the Agreement. There was an 82 percent turnout of registered voters. The Democratic Unionist Party (at that time, the second largest unionist party) had not taken part in the talks and was opposed to the Agreement. It campaigned for a 'No' vote.

The Republic of Ireland also held a referendum on the same day. The Irish Government had agreed in negotiations that, subject to the support of the people, Ireland would change Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution to reflect the 'principle of consent' (no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority). Over 94 percent of the Republic's electorate voted 'yes' (with a 56 percent turnout), showing strong support for the Agreement. As a result, the Irish Constitution was changed and, while retaining an aspiration for unity, it now recognises that Northern Ireland will remain in the UK for as long as the majority wishes.

The first elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly took place on 25 June 1998. There were 108 seats to be filled (now 90). The results were as follows: Ulster Unionist Party 28; Social Democratic and Labour Party, 24; Democratic Unionist Party, 20; Sinn Féin, 18; Alliance Party, 6; United Kingdom Unionists, 5; Progressive Unionist Party, 2; Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, 2; and others, 3.

Activity: Compare these results with current party representation in the Assembly. How have the fortunes of the 5 biggest parties changed? Which parties are no longer represented? What new parties now sit in the Assembly?