Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland


In this refreshingly different look at politics in Northern Ireland, the authors argue that the time has come for a completely new perspective. After reviewing the political conflicts of the last two decades, they conclude that there are repeated failures of understanding between the internal political actors in the North and their supposed external allies. The Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Framework documents are recent illustrations of the British government's desire to minimalise its presence in the North - a policy likely to be continued by Labour, and of the gap between the Irish government's rhetorical commitment to nationalism and the reality of contemporary politics in the South. The authors maintain that neither unionists nor nationalists have a perspective which can engage with the real economic and political conditions of the 1990s. Though not sanguine about the prospects for change, they argue the need for the development of a modern democratic politics in the North, which can move beyond the present stalemate.


This book is an attempt to outline the shape of a possible political settlement in Northern Ireland. It does so by means of an analysis which is partly historical and partly economic.

The complexity of history

The four historical chapters (chapters one, two, three and eight) provide new material on the genesis of the crisis in the 1960s up to the opening of multi-party 'talks' on 10 June 1996; they contain new research on the apparent rapprochement that existed between the Belfast and Dublin regimes on the eve of the outbreak of 'the Troubles'; and on the attempts to reduce the intensity of the Nationalist-Unionist conflict, by means of a power-sharing executive in 1974, and the Anglo–Irish Agreement in 1985; in addition, we bring forward in our discussions new evidence, both of the 'talks process' of 1992, and of the peace process which ended with the bomb at Canary Wharf in early 1996.

The first two chapters are an attempt to provide an analysis of the history of Anglo–Irish relations from the period of the formation of two states in Ireland (1921–23) to the Anglo–Irish Agreement of 1985. Roy Foster has noted that 'views of history can be obscurantist as well as enlightening', and that,

Looking at Anglo–Irish relations over the last hundred years, it is striking
how consistently 'history' is produced as an argument, or a witness, at
junctures when discourse should – one might think – be concentrating
upon affairs more immediately at hand.

We would hope not to obscure the past nor to provide some pre-cooked historical recipe for present problems. Rather, our historical chapters hope to illustrate the complexity of the major forces in play in the triangular London-Dublin-Belfast set of relations, and the dangers of unilateral simplifications of either the Nationalist inevitabilist approach – of 'history is on our side' – or the Unionist . . .

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