As part of an Attitudes for Peace research project, we conducted an opinion poll in Northern Ireland at the time of the Brexit referendum (between May and July 2016). The survey provides a unique insight into citizens` attitudes towards the Good Friday Agreement at this crucial time. It shows that, despite the shortcomings of the agreement, it generally enjoys broad support. Twenty years later, most of the Belfast Agreement – commonly referred to as the Good Friday Agreement – was implemented. Although paramilitary groups still exist, most of them have disarmed and the violence has largely ceased. However, sectarian tensions continue and the UK`s exit from the European Union complicates Northern Ireland`s border agreements and calls into question its future. 30 The counter-reaction also has its roots in the British strategy of moving away from the use of British forces to provide security for Security personnel in Northern Ireland, in particular the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The IRA could argue that the violence against the British armed forces was an attack on an “occupying force”, but the attacks on constabulary represented the murder of Irish citizens. Sinn Fein was also influenced by its assessment of the future. On the one hand, their leaders thought they had learned most of what they could learn from the use of force.
They also feared that they would not be able to maintain the IRA ceasefire much longer if they did not reach negotiations. But they also understood that by making significant concessions (for example. B abandoning their insistence that Britain renounce sovereignty over Northern Ireland and accept the principle of approval), they could turn the time in their favour by securing a union agreed by the ballot box. Thus, the unionists` fears about the future and the hopes of the Republicans over them led both sides to conclude that this agreement, with all its painful compromises, was better than to go away and seize a chance for the future. The agreement has largely circumvented many of the substantive issues underlying the conflict. While the agreement recognizes the importance of reconciliation and the need to speak out with victims of violence, no mechanism has been put in place to do so. It was postponed to subsequent decisions of the Independent International Commission for Decommissioning on the date and modalities of the dismantling.77 The parties also postponed the creation of an independent commission for police work on police and justice issues. Finally, the agreement did not provide a timetable for the withdrawal of British security forces and emergency powers.