Image of the Week

PUP: Ervine; UUP: Empey - 1990s

Unknown Photographer

Location: Stormont, East Belfast

Photo Date: 1990

Progressive Unionist Party leader and MLA David Ervine (right) talks to Ulster Unionist Assembly member Sir Reg Empey (left) outside Castle Buildings, Stormont. Both politicians were also Belfast city councillors, Empey since 1985 and Ervine since 1997. Empey has also served two terms as Belfast Lord Mayor (1989-1990 and 1993-1994). As delegates for their respective parties in the multi-party talks culminating in the Good Friday Agreement in May 1998, Ervine and Empey supported the 'Yes' vote campaign.
The Yes Campaign was a major drive to persuade voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to support the Good Friday Agreement. Separate referendums were held north and south on the same day in May 1998, with vigorous Yes and No campaigns launched to persuade voters to either endorse or reject the Agreement. Behind the Yes Campaign on the unionist side were the Ulster Unionist Party, the Ulster Democratic Party and the Progressive Unionist Party. On the nationalist side, the SDLP and Sinn Fein backed the deal. Other political parties which supported it included the Alliance Party, Workers Party and the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition.
The No campaign opposed the Good Friday Agreement. Opposed to it on the unionist side were the DUP, the United Kingdom Unionist Party, some rebel Ulster Unionist MPs and the Orange Order. They claimed that it was a ‘sell-out' of the union. On the nationalist side, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Republican Sinn Fein and the 32-County Sovereignty Committee pushed for a No vote, largely because the Irish government would surrender its territorial claim on Northern Ireland as part of the deal.

Approximately 71 per cent of voters in the north and 94 per cent in the south voted Yes to the Good Friday Agreement. However, in the north it was estimated that around only 55 per cent of Protestants voted Yes, compared to 96 per cent of Catholics. Moreover, while many unionists and nationalists supported the campaign for a Yes vote, they did so from different angles and with differences in areas of agreement. These differences are the key cause of the start-stop-start nature of the Agreement.