The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 is the cornerstone of stability in Northern Ireland. It is, however, vulnerable to changes in British-Irish relations and priorities. This article argues that this is at the root of recent crises and political stalemate in Northern Ireland. It argues that future shocks - not least the threat of British exit from the EU - are likely to increase instability in Northern Ireland and in North-South relations.
A long process of state-institutional change underlay an eventual swift restructuring of Northern Ireland on a more equal basis in the 2000s. This article shows how change occurred and explains its phasing, arguing that it took a threshold form. It gives a distinctive characterisation of the 'recognition', 'agenda' and 'implementation' thresholds, and the different politics that followed each. This model of state change is of interest in three ways: in providing a distinctive characterisation and explanation of the process; in addressing the comparative literature on 'exclusion', conflict and settlement by sketching a threshold model of change from 'exclusion' to 'inclusion'; and in speaking to a pressing moral concern - if settlement was possible at all, why was it not possible sooner? The article makes use of new evidence in the form of over 70 elite interviews with senior British and Irish politicians and officials who made, influenced and closely observed the process. Adapted from the source document.