The Irish Association has always been concerned to foster good relationship between Unionists and Nationalists within Northern Ireland. In 1990's however it developed a focus on North/South relations.
This was because it was becoming clear that any settlement of the sort eventually achieved in the Good Friday Agreement would require a new model of North/South cooperation. To be blunt, there was absolutely no possibility of a purely internal solution based on power sharing alone.
The problem was that the discussion of an appropriate model for North/South cooperation was to say the least undeveloped. When the two governments published the Framework Document in the mid 1990s there was an explosion of ill-informed comment- exaggerated fear on the Unionist side, exaggerated optimism on the Nationalist side.
The Association, and those close to it, worked steadily to push the debate into calmer and more subtle contexts. This involved a precise translation of the exact meaning of the Framework Document but also some important modifications of that document. In the end the model presented in the Good Friday Agreement was widely, though cautiously, accepted. n fact the early problems in the implementation of the Agreement did not touch on the issue of North/South cooperation so much as issues such as de-commissioning and policing.
As we approach important anniversaries of achievement in the North/South field it should also be noted that the characteristic ethos of the Irish Association played its part in our history.
(Lord) Paul Bew
President, The Irish Association 1991 -1993