Northern Ireland

CSTPV was founded in August 1994: the same month that the Provisional IRA called its landmark ceasefire. By that point, the Troubles in Northern Ireland had lasted a quarter of a century; and consumed around 3,500 lives. Against such a backdrop,  CSTPV took a close interest in the Northern Irish tragedy: it has been the case study on the doorstep.

Research has ranged both widely and deeply at the Centre. CSTPV scholars were amongst the first to contribute to the emergence of a body of serious analysis of the (so-called) ‘dissident’ Republican movements that arose to challenge the peace settlement. However, our scholarship has been more than just reactive to new trends: indeed, it has often taken (unusually) long views of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Finally, there has also been a notable sub-tradition of comparative analysis. No other divided society is quite like Northern Ireland, of course, but sensitive attempts to explore ‘family resemblances’ between divided societies can still yield rich insights. So, too, can the comparative analysis of why nationalist movements from the same geo-political neighbourhood of Western Europe can develop so very differently from each other: and encounter such very different responses from the states they seek to challenge.

There is a rich body of CSTPV scholarly work here that illuminates the Northern Irish conflict from sometimes unusual angles. As Northern Ireland faces an increasingly uncertain future, these pieces deserve a wide audience and readership.

Books

P. M. Currie and Max Taylor (eds), Dissident Irish RepublicanismBloomsbury 2011

Richard English, Armed StrugglePan Macmillan 2012

Kieran McConaghy, Terrorism and the the State: Intra-State Dynamics and the Response to Non-State Political Violence, Palgrave 2017

Nick Brooke, Terrorism and Nationalism in the United Kingdom:The Absence of NoisePalgrave 2018

Chapters

Richard English, Why Terrorist Campaigns do not End in Richard English (ed) Illusions of Terrorism and Counter-TerrorismBritish Academy Scholarship Online 2016

Tim Wilson, The Strange Death of Loyalist Monaghan, 1912 – 1921 in Senia Paseta, Uncertain Futures: Essays about the Irish Past for Roy FosterOxford Scholarship Online 2016

Richard English, Ireland and the Provisional IRA in Does Terrorism Work?Oxford University Press 2019

Tim Wilson, ‘Almost frantic with joy’: The Nicholson Revival and the Belfast Troubles 1922 – 1923, Irish Studies in Britain 2010 One of the least noticed features of the northern troubles of 1920-22 is that they helped trigger the last major religious revival in Ulster. Although several preachers enjoyed success during this period, revival was overwhelmingly associated with a visiting evangelist named W.P. Nicholson. Nicholson first began to make a name for his inspirational preaching across the province from late 1920. But it was not until February 1922, with violence at its height, that Nicholson began to concentrate upon Belfast.
Tim Wilson, Frank Wright Revisited, Irish Political Studies 2011 The profound impact that Frank Wright’s 1987 book Northern Ireland: A Comparative Analysis has had on the study of deeply divided societies has only become clear over the long run. Despite (or perhaps because of) its complexity of structure, the book succeeds in offering comparative insights into how systems of inter-communal violence can first develop and then become self-sustaining. As an Englishman settled in Northern Ireland, Wright was highly sensitised to the condescension typically shown by liberal metropolitans towards the inhabitants of ‘ethnic frontiers’. Wright’s principled refusal to see political stability in terms of moral essentialism lends his work both insight and continued relevance today.
Tim Wilson, ‘The most terrible assassination that has yet stained the name of Belfast’: the McMahon murders in context Irish Historical Studies 2015 At the beginning of 2001 the First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, found himself confronted with more than his fair share of intractable diffculties: having narrowly survived an internal vote of the Ulster Unionist Party on whether to continue in government, Trimble surveyed an unpromising political landscape dominated by the rise of the rival Democratic Unionist Party and the I.R.A.’s continued refusal to decommission all its weapons. Despite all this, in late January 2001 Trimble devoted considerable time to attacking the B.B.C. for having made the Rebel Heart drama series. Claiming to be loosely based on real events, the programmes implied that the Belfast police had killed six members of the McMahon household on 24 March 1922.
Amanda Hall, Peace at any cost? The necessity of the On the Runs Scheme to the endurance of peace in Northern Ireland, Irish Political Studies 2018 From 2000 to 2014, the British government engaged in a secret scheme aimed at allowing Republican paramilitaries ‘On the Run’ to return to the United Kingdom without risk of penalty. When this scheme came into public view in 2013, those responsible in the British government justified it as ‘necessary’ to maintaining peace following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, as a failure to address IRA demands on the topic would have risked a return to active fighting. This research compares the success of the preceding Early Release Scheme in Northern Ireland with the experiences and potential of the On the Runs (OTR) Scheme, evaluating British governmental officials’ testimony on the OTR Scheme to determine the degree to which the potential for paramilitary spoilers drove the development of a clandestine programme designed to encourage IRA support. It was the perception that these paramilitary spoilers would and could derail peace in Northern Ireland if their demands were not met that drove the OTR Scheme. As peace remains fragile, with the future of power-sharing due to concerns about the IRA remaining questionable as recently as 2015, it is obvious that the threat of spoilers remains a driving force of action in the region.
Amanda Hall, Incomplete Peace and Social Stagnation: Shortcomings of the Good Friday Agreement, Open Library of Humanities 2018 Twenty years beyond its signing, the Good Friday Agreement remains the cornerstone of ‘peace’ in Northern Ireland, even as it has faced political, social, and cultural challenges. Despite the lack of renewed violence in the region since 1998, the Good Friday Agreement left many issues unaddressed, hampered by the region’s reality as a ‘deeply divided society’ and ultimately a ‘negative peace’. This article seeks to address the reasons peace has failed to flourish in the region, claiming that a ‘peace process’ ultimately concerned with governmental structures and paramilitary ceasefire was inadequate to truly resolve the conflict, resulting in the endurance of tensions into the present. As a result, the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement is a social stalemate from which the region cannot progress. Northern Ireland remains polarised by many of the same differences visible at the start of the Troubles half a century ago, as old divisions play out in new ways. This has resulted in a ‘culture war’, further dividing the populace. Current political instability in both Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom continue to challenge the tentative peace in the region, raising doubts that such divisions can be reasonably overcome.
Patrick Finnegan, Explaining violent dissident Republican breakaway through deviant cohesion, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 2021
Madalen Beth Reid, Lessons from Beruit and Belfast: How Dysfunctional Democracy Undermines Consociational Settlements in Deeply Divided Societies CSTPV Occasional Papers 2021 Consociational democracy has become a dominant model for post-conflict democratisation, making an understanding of its dynamics and outcomes important for practitioners and scholars of peacebuilding. This paper explores the quality of consociational governance in the long term in societies transitioning from conflict, and asks whether this imperfect system is viable in the long term despite the absence of adequate transition mechanisms to a more efficient and normatively adequate system.

10 April 2018 was the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ‘Good Friday’ Agreement, the historic peace deal that ended nearly 30 years of conflict, a period known as the ‘Troubles’, in Northern Ireland. We worked with Chrome360 Media on a Podcast series on Northern Ireland that traces the long history of the Northern Irish conflict, and explores how the peace process is bedding down 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement.

Listen to all episodes here.

Dr Tim Wilson

Violence: The Human Cost of PartitionQUB Talks 100 – The Partition of Ireland: Causes and Consequences