In 1972, however, because of political and religious strife, the British government decided to take over responsibility for law and order. The Northern Ireland government resigned in protest, and direct rule from London began.
A 1973 act gave Northern Ireland much local autonomy as part of attempts to restore devolved rule; London retained control over defence, foreign policy, currency, tariffs, and communications.
2. Direct Rule
In May 1974, following the collapse of the power-sharing agreement between the political parties in Northern Ireland, direct rule was reimposed. The office of governor and the Northern Ireland Parliament were suspended, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the British government became the head of government in the province.
3. Anglo-Irish Agreement
In 1985 the HYPERLINK "/find/concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761580390"Anglo-Irish Agreement created an intergovernmental conference as a forum for joint discussion of issues such as cross-border security and cooperation. The agreement also provided for the Irish government to put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland, provided these would not be the responsibility of a devolved Northern Ireland administration. Each government retained full sovereignty over decisions and administration within its own jurisdiction.
In September 1993 the British government began bilateral discussions with three of the four Northern Irish parties, to explore a basis for a dialogue on the future of the province. In December of that year, the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland issued a joint declaration as a basis for all-party talks to achieve a political settlement. In late May 1996 elections were held for a 110-member forum to discuss issues pertaining to the promotion of understanding in the province; it had no formal or legislative function.
The Stormont Agreement of April 10, 1998 (Good Friday), which was accepted by 71 per cent of the Northern Ireland electorate in a referendum held on May 22, 1998, established the basis for a new 108-member assembly, elected by HYPERLINK "/find/concise. asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761572248"proportional representation, based on UK parliamentary constituencies. Elections occurred in June 1998, and the assembly was inaugurated on July 1, when it elected a first minister and deputy first minister. It had its first sitting in September 1998, and in February 1999 it endorsed a blueprint for the devolution of powers from the UK parliament. However, negotiations between nationalist and Unionist parties over the issue of decommissioning paramilitary weapons delayed the formation of an executive until late 1999.
A. Partition of Ireland
In 1920, when Ireland was granted HYPERLINK "/find/concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761580204"home rule, six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster, northernmost of the four Irish provinces, were given the opportunity to separate politically from the rest of Ireland and remain part of the United Kingdom. Under the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, which effected the HYPERLINK "/find/concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761580394"partition of Ireland, the six counties became a separate political division of the United Kingdom, known as the province of Northern Ireland, with its own constitution, parliament, and administration for local affairs. The Irish Free State (later Éire, and now the Republic of Ireland) did not accept the separation as permanent, and the reunification of the island remained an element of the constitution until the referendum of May 1998 (see below).
The Protestant majority in Northern Ireland has consistently refused to consider a reunion. The boundary between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was fixed in 1925. Most people in Northern Ireland saw partition from the Roman Catholic south and union with the United Kingdom as the safeguard of their Protestant religion and dominant political, economic, and social position.