In Defence of Politics: Interpreting the Peace Process and the Future of Northern Ireland

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Abstract

The interpretation of the Northern Ireland peace process is highly controversial because it not only has implications for the future of Northern Ireland but ‘lessons’ are also drawn for dealing with terrorism and insurgency globally. This article reviews and critiques key interpretations of the peace process. ‘The Militarists’, Republican Dissidents and Neoconservatives, offer a ‘fundamentalist idealist’ interpretation which leads them to reject political compromise and continue to pursue victory by military means. ‘The Enthusiasts’ are leading figures in the Labour government who champion the outcome of the peace process and recommend ‘talking to terrorists’. ‘The Sceptics’ argue in defence of politics and support the pragmatic realism used to negotiate accommodation. They are critical of ‘The Militarists’ for misinterpreting the peace process and threatening to go back to ‘war’. ‘Sceptics’ welcome powersharing but criticise the ‘Enthusiasts’ for mishandling the peace process and undermining the moderate parties. This has left Northern Ireland with high levels of segregation and economic inequality that prevent the consolidation of peace.

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