The Politics of Northern Ireland

The Politics of Northern Ireland

The Politics of Northern Ireland

The Politics of Northern Ireland


The political scene in Northern Ireland is constantly evolving. This book reflects the most recent changes and synthesises some of the best thinking on the subject. It provides an overview of the politics of Northern Ireland, including detailed coverage of the institutional structure under the Good Friday Agreement and an evaluation of how the institutions operated in practice.

Opening with the historical context and discussion of the nature of the conflict, the standpoints of unionism, nationalism, loyalism and republicanism are explored. The evolution of political initiatives since the 1970s is traced, leading to the peace process of the 1990s and culminating in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The period of devolution in Northern Ireland (1999-2002) will be evaluated, and the book will conclude with coverage of political developments post-suspension, paying particular attention to the on-going debate on changes to the Agreement and the prospects for power-sharing.

Readers will gain:

An impartial understanding of Northern Irish politics

The confidence to use some of the more complicated political concepts in their study of the subject

An ability to go beyond understanding and analyse, question and discuss Northern Irish politics


The Northern Ireland conflict, known locally as ‘the Troubles’, endured for three decades and claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people. The conflict also resulted in thousands of people being injured, bereaved or victimised because they were from the ‘other side’ or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For many years the violence continued with little potential for resolution as none of the political initiatives advanced from the 1970s to the late 1990s satisfied both nationalists and unionists.

In what became known as the Northern Ireland ‘peace process’, politics in the region was transformed in the 1990s due to a set of changed political circumstances: most notably the signals of change within the republican movement and the IRA ceasefires of 1994 and 1997. Multi-party negotiations finally led to a political settlement agreed among (most) political parties on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. The ‘historic’ Agreement established a set of new political institutions: internal power-sharing government between nationalists, unionists and republicans; and structures to reflect the important north—south and east—west relations. Following the transfer of power from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 December 1999, a new administration with local ministers began to govern the region together. The Assembly operated intermittently with suspensions arising from the issue of IRA decommissioning and was suspended for the fourth and final time on 14 October 2002.

Considerable stalemate ensued in the aftermath of suspension as the British and Irish Governments attempted to reach agreement among the parties; a particular challenge following the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin successes at the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly election. In 2006 the two governments produced the St Andrews Agreement with a timetable for the restoration of devolved power sharing. The new agreement was accepted by the parties and led to a series of historic political developments including Sinn Féin’s support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the DUP’s willingness to share power with republicans. Agreement between the two main parties led to the formation of a new coalition . . .

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