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The Hillsborough Agreement

AIA is important for three reasons. First, the two governments were now determined to work together on the historic Anglo-Irish conflict. A permanent Anglo-Irish secretariat (composed of senior officials from Dublin and London) was a manifestation of its rigour. The structures were built to resist boycotts, physical threats, general strikes or anything else. The Intergovernmental Conference, chaired by the British Foreign Secretary and the Irish Foreign Secretary, represented both the structure and the process. Secondly, the agreement has received a lot of international recognition. Goodwill, as expressed in Article 10(a), has fostered cross-border social and economic development by providing international support to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), established on 18 September 1986 with financial assistance from the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Over the next fourteen years, the IFI invested £1.1 billion. Third, the agreement symbolized a profound change in attitude. Article I was a historic change in the attitude of Irish nationalists towards Northern Ireland. Similarly, British concessions to the Irish usered an era of intensive intergovernmental cooperation. They had launched a process of change that was to culminate in the Belfast Agreement of April 1998. The agreement finally arrived around midnight in the Stormont Parliament building.

Earlier in the evening, Sinn Féin said the basis for a deal was on the table and that DUP leaders had time to convince their party to accept it. Robinson came from a meeting of party colleagues to confirm that he had received unanimous support for the proposals. Earlier this week, up to 14 DUP members opposed a proposed deal because it did not make enough concessions to union members. A UUP spokeswoman said members wanted to see the proposed deal before giving their response to the two governments. “We don`t have this agreement in sight and until we do, we won`t sign it,” she said. The British House of Commons voted in favour of a request for approval of the agreement by a majority of 426 (473 in favour and 47 against, the largest majority during Thatcher`s term). The majority of the Conservative Party voted in favour (although there were a few Unionist MPs within the party who opposed it), as well as the Labour Party and the Liberal Alliance-SDP.