Loading...

Northern Ireland

Challenges of Peace and Reconciliation Since the Good Friday Agreement

by Olivier Coquelin (Volume editor) Brigitte Bastiat (Volume editor) Frank Healy (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XII, 298 Pages
Series: Reimagining Ireland, Volume 105

Summary

More than twenty years after the peace agreement signed in Belfast on 10 April 1998, an assessment is overdue, particularly given the current political context in Northern Ireland. A serious political crisis led to the suspension of the regional institutions from January 2017 to January 2020, and the Brexit negotiations did not facilitate the search for a solution, especially as the confidence-and-supply agreement between the British Conservative Party and the DUP prevented London from acting as an honest broker between Sinn Féin and the DUP. At the same time, the issue of the Irish border created tensions between Dublin and London. This situation was compounded by the resurgence of rioting, mostly in Loyalist areas of Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, in April 2021, against the backdrop of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol and communal resentment.
Emanating from a conference jointly organised at the University of Caen Normandy and La Rochelle University, this collection of essays – bringing together academic and independent scholars from various disciplines and nationalities – takes a critical look at the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, from the collaboration between Dublin and London to the new political configurations in Northern Ireland, as well as interfaith, cultural, social and economic developments. Divided into three main parts, it furnishes an opportunity to better understand the reasons for the apparent deterioration in inter-community understanding since 1998, but also to study the numerous initiatives that have sought to promote reconciliation, be it in the economy, the working environment, in the literary and artistic spheres, in schools or in the urban landscape.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Twenty Years of Peace and Reconciliation? (Olivier Coquelin, Brigitte Bastiat, Frank Healy)
  • Part I Political and Economic Developments
  • Facets of the Unionist Experience since 1998: From the Agreement to Brexit and Beyond (David Mitchell)
  • War by Other Means? Sinn Féin and Reconciliation since the GFA (Agnès Maillot)
  • Brexit and the Irish Border: An Historical Overview (Christophe Gillissen)
  • Twenty Years after the Good Friday Agreement: Achievements, Prospects and Limits of Economic Cooperation between the Two Irelands (Anne Groutel)
  • Part II Religion, Urbanism and Education
  • Reconciliation in Northern Ireland: One Jesuit’s Personal Experience (Brian Mac Cuarta SJ)
  • Protestants and Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: Overcoming Opposition, Apathy and a Loss of Legitimacy? (Gladys Ganiel)
  • The Peace Bridge and the Re-branding of the River Foyle in Derry-Londonderry: From a ‘Divided City’ to a ‘Shared Space’? (Charlotte Barcat)
  • Integrated Education and the Shared Education Programme: A Dichotomy in the Northern Irish Education System (Nadège Dumaux)
  • Part III Literature and the Arts
  • Troubles Never Come Singly: Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son and Northern Irish Pioneering Fiction about Gender Trouble (Bertrand Cardin)
  • Connecting with the ‘Nation’ in Northern Ireland: Violence and Reconciliation in Four Plays by Owen McCafferty (Brigitte Bastiat)
  • ‘You Can’t Grab Anything with a Closed Fist’: Reflections on Ulster Protestant Identity in Derek Lundy’s Men That God Made Mad: A Journey through Truth, Myth and Terror in Northern Ireland (Billy Gray)
  • Beyond Trauma? The Expression of Survivors in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland (Fabrice Mourlon)
  • Art and Conflict Transformation: Models of Participation and Collaboration in the Shankill (Hélène Alfaro-Hamayon)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

←x | xi→

Acknowledgements

We would firstly like to acknowledge the ERIBIA-GREI (Research Group in Irish Studies) of the University of Caen Normandy, the CRHIA (Research Centre for Atlantic and International History) and the CIEL (Language Teaching Centre) of the University of La Rochelle for jointly organising and hosting the conference from which this collection of essays is drawn.

We would also like to warmly thank all the contributors who, in the very difficult conditions occasioned by the global health crisis, were keen to see this project completed and did everything possible to ensure that it was.

Many thanks finally to Peter Lang Academic International Publishers for the confidence they showed in us, and above all for their patience, given the delays caused by the pandemic.

The editors, June 2021

←xi | 1→

Olivier Coquelin, Brigitte Bastiat, Frank Healy

Introduction

Twenty Years of Peace and Reconciliation?

Signed on 10 April 1998 by the British and Irish governments and the main Northern Irish political parties after several years of negotiations, the Good Friday Agreement put an end to almost thirty years of conflict (colloquially known as the ‘Troubles’) which had left deep and lasting scars on the national psyche as a result of an almost inextinguishable spiral of violence. In addition to the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, the peace treaty provided for the establishment of two autonomous political institutions in Northern Ireland: an assembly elected by proportional representation and an executive consisting of members of the four main political parties of the country, both Unionist – the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – and Nationalist – the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin. On 22 May 1998, the Agreement was endorsed in two referendums: one in Northern Ireland and the other in the Republic of Ireland. Elections to the new assembly could therefore be held the following month, and they gave the UUP a majority over the SDLP, which also meant that the moderates on both sides had defeated their radical counterparts. As a result, David Trimble, leader of the UUP, became the head of the executive, with the title of First Minister, while Séamus Mallon of the SDLP held the position of Deputy First Minister.

However, despite the enthusiasm and hope aroused by the treaty, a full resolution of the Northern Irish question was still a long way off. On both sides, certain factions remained fiercely hostile to the emerging reconciliation movement and quickly expressed this through violent acts. A particularly deadly attack (29 dead, 220 wounded) was perpetrated on ←1 | 2→15 August 1998 in Omagh by the Real IRA, a splinter group determined to exact punishment for this betrayal of the Republican ideal that the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by Gerry Adams’ Sinn Féin, represented in their eyes. Similarly, elements of the Unionist movement were strongly opposed to the agreement, particularly within Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which could not accept the participation in the newly established institutions of organisations such as Sinn Féin, allegedly complicit in the murder of Protestants over the previous three decades.

There followed several years of sporadic crises, due in particular to the issue of IRA disarmament, the main corollaries of which were the resignation of David Trimble as First Minister on 1 July 2001 and the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly on four occasions – the latest, much longer than the others, occurring between 14 October 2002 and 7 May 2007. Added to this were the electoral successes in 2003 of the DUP and Sinn Féin over the UUP and the SDLP respectively, which did not bode well for an imminent revival of the country’s political institutions. Yet, against all expectations, a turning point was reached that revived the peace process, which had been mired in a stalemate since 2000. The watershed was undoubtedly the official announcement by the IRA on 28 July 2005 ordering ‘an end to the armed campaign’ and the laying down of arms in favour of political action ‘through exclusively peaceful means’ (An Phoblacht/Republican News 2005). This was confirmed in September by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, established in September 1997 and chaired by Canadian General John de Chastelain. After much procrastination, the DUP and Sinn Féin finally resumed talks – begun and interrupted in 2004 – to draw up the draft treaty submitted by the British and Irish governments to the main Northern Irish parties in Saint Andrews, Scotland, from 11 to 13 October 2006. This new agreement was essentially based, on the one hand, on the recognition by Sinn Féin of the predominantly Protestant police force in Northern Ireland and, on the other hand, on the approval by the DUP of the principle of power-sharing between Unionists and Nationalists, including Sinn Féin. Now that these two conditions had finally been met, nothing more was to stand in the way of implementing the St Andrews agreement. As a result, on 26 March 2007, the DUP and Sinn Féin, who had come first and second, respectively, in ←2 | 3→the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 7 March 2007, agreed to form a coalition government, together with the UUP and the SDLP. The Belfast Assembly, meeting on 8 May, endorsed the formation of the new Northern Ireland executive with Ian Paisley as First Minister and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin (and former IRA leader) as Deputy First Minister. Yesterday’s enemies, irreducible and irreconcilable, thus found themselves presiding hand in hand over the destiny of Northern Ireland (Coquelin 2008: 76–77).

However, since then relations between the two parties have not always been constructive, to the point where the regional institutions were suspended again, from January 2017 to January 2020, following the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister to protest against the DUP’s mismanagement of a green energy scheme. Pending a resolution that only came three years later, the Northern Irish government was run by civil servants with fewer resources.1 The Brexit negotiations did not facilitate the search for a solution to this new crisis, especially as the confidence-and-supply agreement between the British Conservative Party and the DUP (2017–19) prevented London from acting as an honest broker between Sinn Féin and the DUP. In addition, the issue of the Irish border created tensions between Dublin and London. Hence there were regular calls to scrap the 1998 Agreement, notably from some British Conservatives who argued that its deficiencies required a new approach. Its limits were recognised as early as 2003 when American envoys like Richard Haass sought, beyond the strictly political sphere, to help Northern Irish political parties overcome persistent difficulties in the region relating to various issues including flags, emblems and marches, and more generally how to deal with a controversial past. Today, the peace walls still stand in Belfast, with ←3 | 4→no plans to dismantle them before 2023 – a deadline increasingly unlikely to be met – while the rarity of mixed districts, the increase in ‘punishment beatings’ and the resurgence of rioting against a backdrop of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol2 and inter-community resentment show that Northern Irish society is not yet normalised.

Brian Rowan, in his book on the conflict in Ireland Unfinished Peace, wrote that ‘the war and peace of this place has been, and is still, a long journey of learning’ (Rowan 2015: 14). There is a continual need for dialogue, for understanding and justice – and for reconciliation, for a ‘future that does not echo the past’ (Morris 2015: 164–165). Paul Ricoeur, in his landmark work ‘Memory, History, Forgetting’, examined the relations between remembering and forgetting and how this interaction affects both the perception of historical experience and the production of historical narrative (Ricoeur 2003). This philosophical essay, together with the works of Halbwachs, who considered memory to be a social practice that is shaped by participation in social groups (Halbwachs 1992), provide examples of approaches that can help to build a framework for the analysis of the present-day situation in Northern Ireland, which in turn may lead us to an understanding of whether or not a peaceful, reconciled society can in fact emerge from the fractured memories of the past.

Transitioning towards this future, Northern Ireland, if it is at all possible, will therefore require more than political summits and agreements. The role of culture and those who produce it will also be of primordial importance. One area in which culture can play a role is in providing sectarian-free spaces and relationships (McAtackney 2016). New quarters, buildings and tourist attractions may play a significant role in a culture-led regeneration of Northern Ireland. The Titanic Quarter in Belfast, which is now home to the Titanic Museum and is fronted by Rowan Gillespie’s statue Titanica, representing hope and positivity, is just one example. The role of culture and art may also be highlighted through experiences like the Theatre of Witness, the work of playwrights such as Marie Jones and Owen ←4 | 5→McCafferty, the paintings of Colin Davidson and Rita Duffy, and the fiction work of Jennifer Johnston or Glenn Patterson, to give but some examples.

Emanating from a conference jointly organised at the University of Caen and the La Rochelle Université,3 this collection of essays, which brings together academic and independent scholars from various disciplines and nationalities, takes a critical look at the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, from the collaboration between Dublin and London to the new political configurations in Northern Ireland, as well as interfaith, cultural, social and economic developments. Divided into three main parts, it furnishes an opportunity not only to better understand the reasons for the apparent deterioration in inter-community understanding since 1998, but also to study the numerous initiatives that have sought to promote reconciliation, be it in the economy, the working environment, in the literary and artistic spheres, in schools and in the urban landscape.

The first part of this volume covers several aspects related to politics and economics. The development of the two main political trends in Northern Ireland is, of course, addressed through the four key realities that have defined the experience of Unionism since 1998 (David Mitchell) and the assessment of how Republican Nationalism, through Sinn Féin, has approached the process of reconciliation since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (Agnès Maillot). The centrality of the Irish border in the Brexit negotiations during the 2017–2020 period is examined (Christophe Gillissen), together with the North-South institutions that were set up to strengthen political and economic cooperation between the two Irelands (Anne Groutel).

The second part of this volume focuses on attempts at rapprochement and begins with a first-hand testimony from a Jesuit priest who engaged in a process of reconciliation in the predominantly Protestant town of Portadown at the end of the Troubles and during the period of peace beginning in 1994 (Brian Mac Cuarta SJ). Religion is also the theme of the ←5 | 6→chapter on the different obstacles that the Protestant peacebuilders confronted before and after the Good Friday Agreement (Gladys Ganiel). Other attempts at a rapprochement discussed here include: the construction of the Peace Bridge and the re-branding of the River Foyle in Derry/Londonderry as part of the efforts to create a ‘shared’ identity in the city (Charlotte Barcat), and the integrated schools whose curricula are based on the promise of equal education combining Protestant and Catholic traditions (Nadège Dumaux).

Details

Pages
XII, 298
ISBN (PDF)
9781789978186
ISBN (ePUB)
9781789978193
ISBN (MOBI)
9781789978209
ISBN (Softcover)
9781789978179
Language
English
Publication date
2021 (December)
Tags
Northern Ireland Peace, Reconciliation Good Friday Agreement Olivier Coquelin Brigitte Bastiat Frank Healy
Published
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2022. XII, 298 pp., 6 fig. b/w, 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Olivier Coquelin (Volume editor) Brigitte Bastiat (Volume editor) Frank Healy (Volume editor)

Olivier Coquelin is Senior Lecturer in British and Irish Studies at the University of Caen Normandy where he is a member of the research group in Irish studies (GREI – ERIBIA). His research work focuses on the history and ideology of Irish political and social movements in the period eighteenth to twentieth century. Brigitte Bastiat holds a PhD in Media and Communication Studies (University of Paris 8). She teaches English at La Rochelle University, is a member of the CRHIA (Research Centre for International Atlantic History). She has published on identity, gender representations in the Irish theatre and cinema and has co-translated two plays by Owen McCafferty. Frank Healy is a lecturer in English for Special Purposes at La Rochelle University, and a member of the CRHIA (Research Centre for Atlantic and International History). He has published work on identity, migration and sport, and has co-translated two plays by Northern Irish playwright Owen McCafferty.

Previous

Title: Northern Ireland