Northern Ireland`s experience strongly underlines an important factor highlighted in the literature on conflict resolution, the importance of maturity.108 The mere fact that the parties accepted in 1998 what they had rejected in 1973 suggests that the change in circumstances played a decisive role. But this observation is of limited value to the practitioner without a few guidelines for evaluation when the circumstances are “ripe”. While policy makers are often in what they can do to create the conditions that make a conflict ready for a solution,109 it is an important tool in the art of the state to identify a chance when it looms. Equally important is the understanding that a conflict is not ready to be negotiated: it can be said that the premature efforts that led to the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 did contribute to prolonging the conflict. The Belfast Agreement is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, as it was concluded on Good Friday on 10 April 1998. It was an agreement between the British and Irish governments and most of northern Ireland`s political parties on how to govern Northern Ireland. Discussions that led to the agreement have focused on issues that have led to conflict in recent decades. The aim was to form a new de-defyed government for Northern Ireland, where unionists and nationalists would share power. As leaders of our respective parties, we have said that our task of reaching agreement on a peaceful and democratic agreement for all on this island is our main challenge.

The agreement was still to be put in place in referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the political leaders who had supported the agreement spent the following months convincing voters to support it. The DuP of Paisley said his party wanted a 40% “no” in the North, which would mean it had not won a majority to support trade unionists. On the Republican side, dissidents have parted ways with the provisional IRA to form the Real IRA. Many saw the process that led to the 1998 agreement as a model for successful conflict resolution.