You are here
I.2.b. The Search for a settlement: The Political Process
Part I of this book sets out the context of the conflict in Northern Ireland, including a chronology of key events from the opening of the first Parliament there in 1921 to the Provisionl IRA ceasefire in September 1998, considers political, social and economic facets of the conflict, and reviews the principal interpretations of its causes. Part II examines the effects of the violence on individuals and groups and argues the need to address them if there is to be peace in the longer term.
(Accord is published by the London-based Conciliation Resources. Issue 13 was entitled ‘Owning the process: Public Participation in Peacemaking’, edited by Catherine Barnes.)
The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC) was initiated by women of various political affiliations, religious beliefs and occupations. It was institutionalized as a political party in 1996 so that its members would be eligible to take part in the all-party talks that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement. It also campaigned for the acceptance of the GFA in the referendums which followed its signing.
Detailed account by an academic historian who acted as special advisor to the Unionist Party of the negotiations that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The author comments in the Introduction that ‘what complicated the Northern Ireland conflict was the range of options which the central protagonists – Unionists and Nationalists – viewed as their preferred solution.’ Historically, he states ‘the Ulster Question has been a dispute concerning sovereignty and identity. Or to put it another way, it has been a dispute between states and nations. But neither Unionists nor Nationalists could agree which states were legitimate or the legitimacy of the opposing group’s national identity’.
Discusses the lessons learned from the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement. Describes how opinion polls were used by politicians to explore what compromises their supporters might accept.
Accounts of peace process from perspectives of various parties involved, including several members of the then recently formed Northern Ireland Executive. Clem McCartney writes on ‘The Role of Civil Society’ and Monica McWilliams and Kate Fearon of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition on ‘Problems of Implementation’.
Discusses competing theoretical perspectives on the causes of the conflict and the political parties and paramilitaries involved. Records the various reforms and constitutional initiatives from the 1970s to the 1990s to find a settlement which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement, the setting up of a power-sharing Executive and Assembly, and finally, following the suspension of the Assembly between 2002 and 2007, the agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein to co-operate in a power-sharing government.
Comparative study of power sharing-initiatives, analyzing the different approaches in each case and the role of external actors. Author argues that the experience in Northern Ireland, despite many setbacks and false starts, has been relatively positive, though threatened by the rioting and quarrels that followed the decision in December 2010 to fly the Union flag at Stormont only on special occasions rather than every day as had previously been the case.
Contributions from Northern Ireland Protestants with backgrounds in politics, the media, education, religion and community work. Murray, himself from a nationalist background, stresses the importance of contesting the widely held view in the Republic of Ireland and beyond that the Unionist population of Northern Ireland is a homogeneous group, which is both intransigent and obstructive. His intention as editor, he states, is to illuminate the diversity which exists in the unionist community.
Analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the constitutional arrangements embodied in the Good Friday Agreement. Argues that despite the difficult concessions unionists had to make, the GFA was a triumph for them politically since it embodied the principle of consent for any constitutional change in the province and the amendment of Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic’s constitution. Rejects the proposition that the separate referendums on the GFA in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic amounted to a genuine exercise in Irish self-determination, but expresses cautious optimism that the void left by ‘the demise of traditional republicanism’ can be filled within the broader EU context by a growing bi-nationalism and diminution of the north-south border.