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Containing Dialogue: The British Government and Early Talks in the Northern Ireland Peace Process



This article examines the role of the British government in talks with republicans and loyalists during the early stages of the Northern Ireland peace process. Since the priority of both the British and Irish governments was to draw paramilitary groups away from violence towards the political process, it was necessary to engage representatives of those groups in dialogue and demonstrate that political goals were more likely to be achieved through debate than violence. Drawing from interviews with key British government figures involved in talks at that time, this study identifies how the British sought to draw republicans and loyalists into the political process and how dialogue was used to assist the development of political representation within paramilitarism.