A chronology of Northern Ireland public policy on community relations:

22 February 1995

Framework Documents

“The declaration that we have agreed today shows the commitment of the two Governments for peace and democracy and against violence. Its objective is to set a framework for peace, a framework that reflects our responsibilities to both communities in a way that is fully compatible with the undertakings that we have both given and with the objectives of the talks process.”

-John Major, Downing Street Declaration

1 May 1997

Westminster Elections

“We will accordingly continue to pursue a policy of dialogue and negotiation with and between the democratic Northern Ireland parties.”

-Conservative Party Manifesto

“There will be as great a priority attached to seeing that process through with Labour as under the Conservatives, in co-operation with the Irish government and the Northern Ireland parties.”

-Labour Party Manifesto

“Peace in Northern Ireland depends on containing and ultimately removing the entrenched hostility between the two main communities in Northern Ireland.”

-Liberal Democrats Manifesto

6 June 1997

Dáil Eireann Elections

“In relation to Northern Ireland we have an opportunity to rebuild on the hope created by the peace process redoubling our energies in the face of obstacles that have been put in its path.” “Fianna Fáil in Government will work to re-establish the peace process and make it irreversible, promote a universal commitment to democratic principles, deepen further our links with all sides of the community.”

-Fianna Fáil Party Manifesto

“Our priorities are a permanent peace in Northern Ireland based on an inclusive settlement based on consent.”

-Labour Party Manifesto

“The Green Party has always been open to and available for talks with any of the protagonists in Northern Ireland’s dispute … peace talks need to take place now.”

-Green Party Manifesto

September 1997

Programme for Government (Ireland)

“The priority of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats will be to create a lasting peace on this island, based on justice, friendship and cooperation between people of different traditions. The immediate task will be to revive the peace process.”

“The priority of the Government will be … the establishment of all-party negotiations in the three-strand process.”

-Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats

10 April 1998

Good Friday/Belfast Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement states that the signatory parties “affirm their commitment to the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community”.

“Today I hope that the burden of history can at long last start to be lifted from our shoulders.”

-Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister

John Major (Conservative Party) welcomes Good Friday Agreement and actively campaigns in Northern Ireland for a “Yes” vote on its referendum.

25 June 1998

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

The first elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly return the UUP and SDLP as the largest parties.

15 August 1998

Omagh bombing

“The aim of those bombers was, as I say, not just to kill innocent people but to strike at the very heart of the peace process. The best response that we can give, therefore, is not to abandon the Good Friday agreement but, on the contrary, to carry it forward vigorously, to deny these people the very objective they seek, and to continue to work for a better future for Northern Ireland that puts the past behind us. [Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister] will also continue to have our support in implementing the Good Friday agreement and in carrying through the efforts of this Government and the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) to bring lasting peace.”

-William Hague (Conservative Party), speaking in House of Commons in aftermath of Omagh Bombing

19 November 1998

The Northern Ireland Act

Section 75(1) and (2) creates a statutory duty for a public authority: “in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group”.

11 February 2000

Suspension of Northern Ireland Assembly

“If we can find resolutions now, great, if not we’ll just have to keep at it and we’ll keep on working together … We would have concerns about suspension. Unilaterial suspension would not be in line at this stage with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.”

-Bertie Ahern (Ireland Taoiseach)

“In view of recent events, there is a particular onus on the republican movement to take action to demonstrate that they are committed to exclusively peaceful means.”

-Enda Kenny (Fine Gael)

“Given the political challenges that continue to face Northern Ireland, this is undoubtedly a sad day. Nonetheless, the breakdown of trust between unionists and republicans is such that the decision has been inevitable for a number of days. There is a democratic and moral obligation of both sides, unionist and republican, to rebuild trust.”

-Ruairi Quinn (Labour)

7 June 2001

Westminster Elections

“Conservatives continue to believe that the Belfast Agreement offers the best chance for lasting peace and political stability.”

-Conservative Party Manifesto

“We know that. It is the only way, just as we know in our own peace process, in Northern Ireland, there will be no unification of Ireland except by consent – and there will be no return to the days of unionist or Protestant supremacy because those days have no place in the modern world. So the unionists must accept justice and equality for nationalists.”

-Tony Blair speech to Labour Party Conference

“Build on the work of the Northern Ireland peace process. We will develop co-operation within the British Isles through the Council of the Isles, and we welcome the establishment of North-South bodies in the island of Ireland within this overall framework.”

-Liberal Party Manifesto

17 May 2002

Dáil Eireann Elections

“Over the next five years the overriding priority of the Fianna Fáil Government will be to secure lasting peace in Ireland through the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.”

-Fianna Fáil Manifesto

“An important element in the significant progress that has been made on Northern Ireland in recent years has been the continuity in the policy between the main parties in this jurisdiction … A Fine Gael Government will continue to build on the Good Friday Agreement.”

-Fine Gael Manifesto

“We will continue to pursue our historic role as campaigners for social and economic justice and as brokers for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.”

-Labour Party Manifesto

14 October 2002

Northern Ireland Assembly suspended

The Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended. Meanwhile, the “Harbison Report” is published and indicates that current good relations policy is not significantly improving tensions between communities in Northern Ireland.

“You cannot carry on in a situation where there is not simply the perception, but the reality, of a dual track, paramilitary and political at the same time. I think everyone understands that, and the question is how you get the last bit of it done. There’s no way this is sustainable unless there’s an absolutely clear commitment, unequivocally, to peaceful means. That’s why there’s a problem.”

-Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister

“Suspension, even at this stage, is the wrong remedy. It penalises the innocent along with the guilty and creates a great risk to the political process.”

-Conservative Party

“All those involved in the peace process have an obligation to demonstrate their commitment to the assembly and to devolution.

-Liberal Democrats

January 2003

A Shared Future

Under Direct Rule administration, the Community Relations Unit of the Office of the First and deputy First Minister launches policy document, “A Shared Future: Improving Relations in Northern Ireland”.

26 November 2003

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly return the DUP and Sinn Féin as the largest parties.

March 2005

A Shared Future: The Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland

“A Shared Future: The Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland” is published by Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy.

5 May 2005

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

“We will continue to work for a comprehensive political settlement, based on the principles of the Belfast Agreement.”

-Conservative Party Manifesto

“The period of transition is over. Unionist politicians have made it clear that they are prepared to share power with nationalists and republicans if violence is ended once and for all. It is time for all groups in Northern Ireland to make it clear they will only use democratic and peaceful means to advance their aims.”

-Labour Party Manifesto

“We will therefore strengthen the powers of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

-Liberal Democrats Manifesto

April 2006

A Shared Future: First Triennial Action Plan

Under Direct Rule administration, OFMdFM publishes the First Triennial Action Plan 2006-2009. The action plan is named “Making it happen: Implementing the policy and strategic framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland”. A Shared Future: First Trieannial Action Plan 2006 – 2009: Improving Relations in Northern Ireland 

13 October 2006

St Andrews Agreement

An agreement is reached at St Andrews and the Northern Ireland Act 2006 is passed. The St Andrews Agreement states that “The British government has also agreed to take forward a number of measures to build confidence in both communities and to pursue a shared future.”

“And after all peace in return for power sharing is what this process from the Good Friday Agreement onwards has always been about.”

-Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister

“If not perfect by everybody’s agenda, it’s a fair and sustainable balance to try by March to make sure we have a working executive based on power sharing and an acceptance of policing and the rule of law.”

-Bertie Ahern, Ireland Taoiseach

“I welcome the progress made in the negotiations at St. Andrews and the positive approach adopted by each of the parties.”

-David Lidington (Conservative Party), speaking in House of Commons

“I welcome the statement and my early sight of it. Good progress has been made and it can work, particularly because the most recent Independent Monitoring Commission report suggests that the IRA’s activities have been massively reduced, although not to zero, and that many of its structures have been dismantled.”

-Lemit Opik (Liberal Democrats)

7 March 2007

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are held, which returns Sinn Féin and the DUP as the largest parties. The subsequent Programme for Government (Northern Ireland Executive) states that ‘equality, fairness, inclusion and the promotion of good relations will be watchwords for all our policies’.

4 April 2007

Bertie Ahern-Ian Paisley handshake

“We must do our best to put behind us the terrible wounds of the past and work together to build a new relationship between our two traditions.”

-Bertie Ahern, Ireland Taoiseach

24 May 2007

Dáil Eireann Elections

“The achievement of peace and unity on our island remains the most important objective of Fianna Fáil.”

-Fianna Fáil Manifesto

“Fine Gael will … build on the historic agreement reached in Northern Ireland and do everything possible to realise the potential of a lasting settlement.”

-Fine Gael Manifesto

“The coming together of both communities to govern a peaceful Northern Ireland is the culmination of a painful journey. Citizens on both parts of this island shared an important part of that journey when they voted to overwhelmingly to support the Good Friday Agreement.”

-Labour Party Manifesto

January 2008

Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) intention announced

OFMdFM announce plans to produce a “Cohesion, Sharing and Integration” (CSI) document.

September 2008

The deputy First Minister informs the Northern Ireland Assembly that the draft strategy for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration will be brought before the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister.

28 October 2008

DUP published a draft version of CSI on its party’s website.

16 September 2009

Sinn Féin published a draft version of CSI on its party’s website.

February 2010

OFMdFM indicate that a final draft of CSI is being prepared.

6 May 2010

Westminster Elections

“In Northern Ireland, we strongly support the political institutions established over the past decade and we are committed to making devolution work. We will continue to promote peace, stability and economic prosperity and work to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics.”

-Conservative Party Manifesto

“For the first time, Northern Ireland can look forward to a stable and prosperous future as a result of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough Agreements.”

-Labour Party Manifesto

July 2010

CSI consultation launched

OFMdFM launch consultation for Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration. CSI Consultation Document Summary 

 CSI Consultation Document   UUP, SDLP and Alliance parties criticise CSI for “lacking vision”.

October 2010

Community Relations Council publishes its response to the CSI consultation. See also review

November 2010

CSI consultation closes

OFMdFM indicate that over 200 responses have been received for CSI. Consultation is officially closed on 5 November 2010.

February 2012

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 1)

Community Relations Council publish first annual issue of Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report.

January 2013

First Minister Peter Robinson reveals unresolved issues are primarily in regards to flags, parades and dealing with the past.

29 January 2013

For Everyone: The Alliance Party Blueprint for an Executive Strategy to Build a Shared and Better Future

Alliance publishes party policy document on community relations, For Everyone: The Alliance Party Blueprint for an Executive Strategy to Build a Shared and Better Future.

And the full version of the document:

March 2013

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 2)

Community Relations Council publish second issue of Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report.

May 2013

Together: Building a United Community

OFMdFM launch cross-community initiatives and pledge the publication of policy document, “Together: Building a United Community”. Another all-party Working Group to be established, but this one to be headed by an independent chairperson.
http://youtu.be/ZVpAmeJGUd8 http://youtu.be/h4g48ndFHH8 http://youtu.be/vT-n_wQCq24

July 2013

Haass-O’Sullivan Talks initiated

Creation of the Panel of Parties in the NI Executive http://panelofpartiesnie.com/

September 2013

CRC submission to Haass-O’Sullivan Talks

Community Relations Council, Haass Submission.

December 2013

Haass-O’Sullivan Talks result

A result of the Haass-O’Sullivan Talks: A Proposed Agreement on Parades, Select Commemorations, and related protests; Flags and Emblems; and Contending with the past.

March 2014

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 3)

Community Relations Council publish third issue of Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report.

17 November 2015

A Fresh Start

After ten weeks of intensive cross party talks at Stormont House, the Northern Ireland executive and the UK and Irish governments agreed a set of actions to address the two key themes the talks were convened to address:

  1. to secure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement
  2. to deal with the impact of continued paramilitary activity

‘A Fresh Start: the Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan’ builds on previous political agreements and brings closer the goal of a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger.