The Law, Northern Ireland and The Good Friday Agreement

The Law, Northern Ireland and The Good Friday Agreement

Members of Queen’s University School of Law have played crucial roles in the peace process, both during the negotiations leading up to the Good Friday Agreement and in its ongoing implementation. Their contributions include providing legal expertise on the constitutional design of the agreement, the provisions for human rights and equality protection, police and criminal justice reform, prisoner release and efforts to address the legacy of the conflict. 

Human rights played a central role in the Good Friday Agreement. The agreement included commitments to the protection and promotion of human rights including the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law and the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland. A number of staff members served on the Human Rights Commission and Professor Emeritus Brice Dickson was a former Chief Commissioner. 

The constitutional position of Northern Ireland was also addressed in the agreement. It recognised the principle of consent, which states that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland can only change with the majority consent of its people. This provision allowed for the possibility of a united Ireland in the future if a majority in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland support it.

The legacy of the Troubles remains a contentious issue in Northern Ireland, with unresolved questions surrounding justice, truth, and reconciliation. Many victims and their families continue to seek truth recovery and accountability for past abuses. The Good Friday Agreement did not include provisions for an overarching process (e.g. a truth commission) to address the legacy of the conflict and several law school colleagues have been heavily involved in trying to find lawful and human rights compliant ways to address the needs and rights of victims and broader society. 

These LawPod episodes explore the work of School of Law academics who have addressed the ongoing challenges related to truth recovery, justice, and reconciliation through their research efforts.