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Almost exactly 20 years ago, after months of delicate and difficult negotiation, leaders of Northern Ireland's two main political camps – Catholic nationalists and republicans on one side; Protestant unionists on the other – signed the Good Friday Agreement, ending more than 30 years of violence and bloodshed.Once the agreement was signed, the status of both Britain and Ireland as European Union members made the transition easier.Over the last two decades, the U.K. and Ireland have enjoyed the fruits of a mutually respectful and peaceful relationship.In Northern Ireland, the power-sharing government has broken down, and the U.K. government is not in a strong position to help restore constructive collaboration.As a result, the U.K. government seems unable to act as an even-handed mediator.Northern Ireland, they assert, will have to have the same trade rules as the rest of the UK.Similar problems arise with regard to the free movement of people within the EU – a rule to which the U.K. does not want to be subject.One hopes that Irish leaders can impress this upon politicians in the U.K., opening the way for a solution that doesn't threaten Ireland's hard-won peace and prosperity.
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