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The Agreement: ten years on

Robin Sheeran
Robin Sheeran
The Politics Show Northern Ireland

Good Friday agreement
Every household in Northern Ireland received a copy of the Agreement

Ten years ago an event occurred that fundamentally changed the political landscape in Northern Ireland. But has the Good Friday Agreement lived up to expectations?

The simple answer is, of course, that it depends what your expectations were in the first place.

Those who backed the deal faced a long and frustrating decade of two steps forward, one step back.

"Wouldn't it be great..."

The government's PR slogan, "Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time", turned into "Wouldn't it be great if this mess was finally sorted out".

Even now the political parties cannot agree whether the St Andrews Agreement was a clarification of, or a replacement for, the 1998 Agreement.

The Good Friday Agreement is a prime example of the diplomatic tactic known as 'constructive ambiguity', less generously described as 'fudging'. It can be a useful way to kickstart a process, but a curse in the long term when conflicting political expectations have to be teased out.

I'm told it was a speciality of US Middle East policy during the Henry Kissinger era. We are still waiting for a positive result from that quarter.

Along the border

This week on Politics Show from Northern Ireland, Gareth Gordon travels along the Armagh/Monaghan border and examines how the Agreement has affected everyday life both north and south.

He speaks to a number of residents of Crossmaglen, the County Armagh village still recovering from its Troubles reputation.

Gareth finds signs of economic regeneration but residents are now faced by anti-social behaviour of a kind not seen before.

Army sanger in Crossmaglen was dismantled in 2000
Army sanger in Crossmaglen was dismantled in 2000

Local schoolteacher Oliver Short explains the situation of ten years ago.

"We had no recognised law for us but we had order, and now that the Good Friday Agreement has come in place we have the police who are steadily coming into the area."

South of the border, the County Monaghan town of Castleblayney was blighted by its proximity to the troubled north.

Vibrant town

John McCabe is editor of the local paper, the Monaghan Post. "That has all changed now", he says.

"Castleblayney is a very vibrant town. There is an awful lot more going for it."

Also in the programme, Rosy Billingham reports from Portadown on whether or not the town has changed in the years since the Drumcree protests.

And Jim Fitzpatrick presents the programme live from Armagh City.

The Politics Show for the Northern Ireland, with Jon Sopel and Jim Fitzpatrick on Sunday 16 March 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

You get a second chance to see the programme again that night, at 22:55 BST on BBC One.

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