The Peace Process and the Sculpture
The artwork presents the full text of the 11,500-word document known as the "Good Friday" or "Belfast" Agreement, in a clear and comprehensible manner across 55 panels. The text begins: "We the participants in the multi-party negotiations, believe that the agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning."
The complexity and legal nature of the legislative document makes it difficult for public consumption. At the time of the negotiations a leaflet containing the complete text of the peace agreement was distributed to every Irish household. The same document has had minimal exposure in England.
The Agreement has been conceived as a democratic gesture to recover ownership of a landmark public document with implications for Anglo-Irish relations.
The existing political division of Ireland dates from the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in 1921 and after centuries of British rule (including 120 years when the country was governed as part of the United Kingdom) 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland gained independence. The remaining six counties formed Northern Ireland, which continued to be governed within the United Kingdom. However, while the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster exercised sovereignty, power on a variety of matters was devolved to a local Parliament and Government established at Stormont in Belfast in 1920…
Multi-Party Talks involving the two governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland which had been successful in a specially convened election in May 1996…began on 10 June 1996. The talks were chaired by Senator Mitchell, assisted by the former Finnish Prime Minister, Harri Holkeri and the former Chief of Staff of the Canadian Army, General John de Chastelain. For the first year there was little progress as issues of procedure, agenda and decommissioning were slowly addressed. On 20th July 1997, the IRA announced a resumption of its cease-fire, thereby opening the way for the entry of Sinn Fein to the talks on 9 September
Good Friday Agreement 1998
On Friday 10 April 1998, a comprehensive political agreement was approved at a plenary session of the Talks. The two Government signed immediately thereafter a new British-Irish Agreement committing them to give effect to the provisions of the Multi-Party Agreement, in particular those relating to constitutional change and the creation of new institutions
The text of the Multi-Party agreement and the British-Irish Agreement are available on the department of the Taoiseach's website www.irlgov.ie/taoiseach.
The four agreements of 8 March 1999 are on the Department of Foreign Affairs web site www.irlgov.ie/iveagh under the Anglo-Irish heading.
The agreements are also all on the website of the Northern Ireland Office www.nio.gov.uk