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Northern Ireland Peace Process

To begin with, the world is full of conflicts and not always there is enough number of the solutions to cover the global problems. The conflicts, of course, occur due to men’s activity in context of some differences of opinions. People struggle because of the sort of controversy and individuality in every human being. The thing is that a man should make a decision about the way he does: positive or negative. It is about the politics, first.

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The powers that be manage things about the country in the way to solve current problems and to support the previous (if successful) trend in policy. It is really great when words of politics during their election campaigns do not contradict the following actions (if they appear at all). The diversity of opinions in the United Kingdom are determined by the diversity in histories of each country on British Isles and the following flow of emigrants from all over the world due to the historical background of the British Empire development.

The theme of social disaster is not surprising for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in particular. Here the terrorism is associated with Islam extremists and militants of Irish Republican Army (IRA). In the flow of some historical changes in society (of religious and territorial kind) British people tried to arrange the things in order not to shatter the moral frameworks of every nation living in the Kingdom.

Catholics still struggle with Protestants; the heirs of Celts cannot get on swimmingly with those of Anglo-Saxons. Thus, the ruling class of politics intended their policy for providing an accurate and rationally considered way of reigning or ruling the country. Today it is hard to positively analyse the previous and current ways of situation resolving in Northern Ireland.

Each generation has its own vocabulary of horrors: cancer, redundancy, and Lebanon; AIDS, homelessness, Bosnia; Alzheimer’s, foreclosure, Iraq. For anyone who grew up in the western world during the quarter century following 1969, Northern Ireland was such a word: a synonym for violence, small mindedness, intolerance and insolubility (Cull, 1).

Conflicts do not pass away in Northern Ireland, and every effort of local government as well as British one on the whole is directed to maintain the peacemaking process there by means of telling arguments in a dialogue between major parties and IRA. Bringing the ‘Irish’ conflict to an end is a hard process where time and diplomacy are needed within masses. “The key elements include a political process; institution building and reform; attention to human rights and equality issues; economic development; demobilization, demilitarization and reintegration of the armed groups; and a means of involving the wider population in the process” (Cull, 5).

As Terence O’Neill (Northern Ireland Prime Minister in 1968) once reported, “Ulster stands at the crossroads. What kind of Ulster do you want? A happy and respected province in good standing with the rest of the United Kingdom? Or a place continually torn apart by riots and demonstrations and regarded by the rest of Britain as a political outcast” (Kienzle, 1)? This issue seems not to find solutions for many years since then.

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Conflict management in this field of interests omitted any moral cultural and, moreover, human aspects. Many attempts of the government were strived on saluting the conflicts by virtues of military forces, but it resulted in nothing. Then during the Blair’s ruling at the end of the twentieth century appeared an event that made a great impact on situation upturn in the region. Unionists and Republicans, Protestants and Catholics, Loyalists and Nationalists signed in April 1998 “a comprehensive peace agreement, the so-called Good Friday Agreement” (Kienzle, 1).

This document after already eleven years since adoption cannot now present Irish people with better conditions of life. Still street riots and demonstrations along with total violence happen and in focus the problem is far from its further solution. One person made great pains as of managing the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the man who along with his team provided several negotiations with the opposing sides in the conflict. It is former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair.

The thing is that the problem is not only based on some political urges or religious misunderstanding. Problems with some social life conditions left much to be desired alongside the political controversies. Water Charges, Cutting Government Costs, Review of rating and Tax problem on the whole fanned the flames within society. Undoubtedly after fifteen years being in opposition The Labor Party with Tony Blair at the head better realized the situation over the social, religious, economic and political crisis in Northern Ireland.

The experience the party and the Prime Minister gathered looking at the attempts of previous Governments helped to work out the complex of actions to improve the time of day in Great Britain focusing world society’s outlook on better ways of solutions about the problems. “The new Blair Government was invested with immense energy, optimism and a fresh approach that was, courtesy of nearly 15 years of opposition, largely free of political baggage relating to Northern Ireland” (Northern Ireland, 2007).

The newly formed Government provided a wide range of measurements in terms of further implementation in major ways of providing Blair’s policy throughout Great Britain. This one was free of direct impact by Northern Ireland. As it was mentioned before, the result of it was The Agreement between warring parties. “The Good Friday Agreement is neither the end nor the beginning of the peace process, although it is its major part” (Kienzle, 2).

The concept of process, as it is considered, needs in its meaning time, patience and decisive action. The last one determines whether the end of it will occur in the short or in the long run. For the new steps and innovative actions of the Government and politics may appear a precious experience, it is significant in turn to make special emphasis on the future effects of such deeds. As ‘New Statement’ wrote after the adoption of The Good Friday Agreement:

While acknowledging “the substantial differences between our continuing, and equally legitimate, political aspirations” the parties to the talks have given their support to a constitution for Northern Ireland from whose radicalism older and more encrusted institutions in London and even Dublin may, in time, seek lessons (New Statesman, 1998).

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The situation about peace-making problem and peace building reforms in Ulster is certainly connected with two major parties in the region: Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein. These two have been struggling since the year 1969 and even earlier.

Forty years of problematic issues about Anglo-Irish conflict. Perhaps every country with a long history has the wing of those people who stand for the nationalist ideas and those who consider the “status quo” to be preferable policy at the moment. Such division is obvious in Northern Ireland. Prime Minister Tony Blair delegated Jonathan Powell (key adviser to Tony Blair on the Northern Ireland peace process) to regulate the negotiations with Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein).

As Powell notes according to his meeting McGuinness: “Adams first indicated to me that quiet meetings might prove productive when he came into No 10 on March 21 to talk about the IRA tradition of dumping weapons. His suggestion was that dumping could serve as a confidence-building measure” (The Guardian, 2008).

Many standpoints about the “persuasion the IRA to decommission its arms” (The Guardian, 2008) stayed unsolved and prevent positive results of the negotiations. The result was achieved but the motives of Tony Blair discovered later in his future political course. He personally considered Northern Ireland as a priority for providing his further being in office. There were few objectives that he pursued, namely:

The necessity to create a space without violence during which politics could begin to flourish; the identification of individuals with the courage and intention to lead their communities; and the search for a political framework which could accommodate the needs, aspirations and scope for compromise by all involved (Blickpunkt Grossbritannien, 2008).

Former Prime Minister was assured about the issue of relationship building among partners involved based on trust and honor. This paramount factor was predominant within his team. Here people and persons who headed groups of people are of great significance for Prime Minister. Having gained support of European colleagues Blair moved step by step towards the agreement signing and further positive results of it. As ‘Foreign Policy’ commented the situation: “the British-Irish conflict is European in origin” and that its solution therefore lay with Europe” (Foreign Policy, 1998). Then the article continued to draw public attention on some main opinions about the separatists’ movement in Ulster and the troubles of Irish society:

In Northern Ireland, Paisley’s calculated paranoia over “popery” carries less weight. Ulster’s identity is slowly becoming less sectarian. Unionist business executives have tired of explaining partition to foreign colleagues and quietly concede that, in the EU context, a unified Ireland makes at least as much economic sense as Northern Ireland’s union with Britain (Foreign Policy, 1998).

The question remains unanswered about positive influence of handling peace process in Northern Ireland. Blair’s smartness and his team in intelligence service while providing the peace did not mind that one could gain the peace only in the end of process. The Prime Minister felt the challenge in maintaining the political background in order to achieve the essential solutions without breaking the key principles depicted in constitutional guidelines.

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Also the leader of the Kingdom could not but point out the importance of the details and forms in which the troubles of Northern Ireland were represented and actualized. The mechanism of social disaster framework in Ulster differs from other conflict regions all around the world. The ideological constituent part plays usually main role in forthcoming of such conflicts in every case. The schedule of the forms of violence in Northern Ireland was obvious in every case of street riots and terrorist actions of pro-military organizations, namely loyalist and nationalist branches.

Direct paramilitary violence has certainly decreased since the Agreement. In fact, the continuity of the cease-fires of the largest paramilitary groups is one of the most important achievements of the peace process in general and of the Good Friday Agreement in particular.

However, having said this, violence as such has not disappeared and still haunts Northern Ireland in four different forms: first, in the form of ‘ordinary crime’, which has increased significantly; secondly, in the form of riots and street violence between Protestant and Catholic mobs; thirdly, in the form of violence by splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA or the Loyalist Volunteer Force; fourthly, in the form of internal paramilitary violence: Both Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries still perform ‘policing tasks’ in their respective communities (Kienzle, 3).

A lot of efforts should be directed then to make other politicians keep constructively discussing the dispute as for Northern Ireland. “Tony Blair, according to a new accusation, was guilty of “conceding and capitulating” to republicans in order to keep the Irish peace process going, behaving in an “unreasonable and irresponsible” fashion” (The Independent, 2007). In this case one should be interested whether to negotiate with terrorists or not?

Ed Moloney in his book “A Secret History of the IRA” centres reader’s attention on the development of IRA during last twenty years with Gerry Adams at the head. The book outlines the peace process elaboration from 1990 when it started with negotiations between Martin McGuinness and Michael Oately (MI6 officer), but then the author underlines that after ceasefire in 1994 a new channel of weapons appeared between Adams and King (former northern secretary of state) and about this case Allec Reid (one of the priests at that moment) reported to be a middleman.

Adams was engaged in an enterprise of which the [IRA] Army Council knew nothing, and had it been privy to these events it is likely that it would have heartily and angrily disapproved. The Reid-Adams initiative was a hugely dangerous exercise for the Sinn Féin leader (Moloney, 124).

It was known, that there was a vessel which was full of weapon in the diversity of its kinds. The author insists on the terrifying idea that IRA had a greatly kept secret informer in the upper echelons of the state. This idea comes across the constantly possible danger of Adam’s commands while peace process continued within politics by means of definite procedures of negotiations and previous armed forces: “had the vessel and its deadly cargo gotten through… a well-developed peace process would have been its first casualty. Whoever betrayed the Eksund saved the process, whether wittingly or otherwise” (Moloney, 211).

Nevertheless, Gerry Adams continued, as Moloney claims, to work out the scenario of further maintenance of leadership and control over IRA in terms to create new means of arms influence on society and publicity of Northern Ireland and Great Britain at all. “The ‘preservation’ of the Republican leadership despite years of intensive and highly effective military/police operations may suggest a deliberate ploy on behalf of the British to encourage political progress” (Northern Ireland, 25). Today Adams and the party headed by him has enclosed the wider boarders in the field of political activity and the allies of this movement still try to get not less than 10 seats in the Dail.

In another work by Ed Molony “Paisley: From Demagogue to Democrat?” the author depicts Ian Paisley, one of the activists in Northern Ireland, being the head of the Democratic Unionist Party. Person of Paisley contributed to the process of peace emergence on the area of Ulster. The author of above mentioned work outlines the role of Ian Paisley as a “giant” of Irish history saying that “It looked as if he wanted to build up a congregation, and it didn’t matter what price or what issue” (Moloney, 12).

Returning to Tony Blair it is grave to analyze the results of his conflict management in Northern Ireland. Most of the British evaluate his peace-making campaign as successful. On the other hand, some of the public figures accuse him in deceiving the Northern Irish electorate during the referendum campaign. That fact, in their opinion, mismanaged the peace process. With regards to the peace-building strategy of the former Prime Minister McIntyre in his book “Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism” personally thinks that “the process subverts the peace” (McIntyre, 168).

After decades of the best efforts of the police, the military and the intelligence agencies the position was clear: the IRA might not be winning but it wasn’t being beaten either, and it possessed weapons of considerable destruction. It maintained a continuing threat to the British state with an apparently interminable campaign which had already claimed almost 2,000 lives (The Independent, 2007).

Nonetheless, the situation achieved better political shapes with emphasis on the constructivism and coming to a consensus by tints of rational negotiations and providing reforms. The process is not over yet, it is on its going forward the possible barriers in agreements and solutions within major parties. As I see, the end may appear when native people of Northern Ireland and such leaders as Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness will come to a conclusion that the changes should take place in an Irishman’s mind, first, then in a public opinion.

To sum up, it is necessary to admit that the still continuing discussion about the provided policy in Northern Ireland needs “transformational conflict resolution in the peace-building process” (International Journal on World Peace, 2001). This non-violent and progressive means of the situation resolving needs cooperation and collaboration of all governing branches not only in Ulster but also in Great Britain along with EU. Peace creation is a versatile and mainly argumentative process, that is why the support and entire interest of politics should be constantly drawn until the end of the mutual struggle in the region.

Reference List

An anointed demagogue with few principles’; Sunday Business Post, 2008.

Byrne, S ‘Transformational Conflict Resolution and the Northern Ireland Conflict’; International Journal on World Peace, Vol. 18, 2001.

Clancy, MAC ‘The United States and post-Agreement Northern Ireland, 2001–6’; School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen’s University Belfast, 2001.

Dixon, P ‘An Honourable Deception? Tony Blair, Political Lying and the Northern Ireland Peace Process’; Parliamentary Affairs, (forthcoming 2009).

Dixon, P: Northern Ireland: The Politics of War and Peace, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2008.

Dixon, P ‘Political Skills or Lying and Manipulation? The Choreography of the Northern Ireland Peace Process’; Political Studies, vol. 50, no. 3, 2002.

Dixon, P ’Peace within the realms of the possible?’ David Trimble, Unionist Ideology and Theatrical Politics’, Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 16, no.3, 2004, pp.462-82.

Dixon, P ‘Performing the Northern Ireland Peace Process on the World Stage’, Political Science Quarterly.

Hain, P ‘Peacemaking in Northern Ireland: A Model for Conflict Resolution?’; Blickpunkt Grossbritanien, August, 2008.

Kienzle, B ‘Northern Ireland Five Years after the Good Friday Agreement: Again at the Crossroads?’. Web.

McIntyre, A : Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism; Ausubo Press, 2008.

McKittrick, D ‘Tony Blair and the rocky road to peace’; The Independent, Wednesday, 2007.

Moloney, E: Paisley: From Demagogue to Democrat?; Poolbeg, 2008.

Moloney, E: A Secret History of the Peace Process; Penguin, 2002.

Northern Ireland; a British Military Success or a Purely Political Outcome?’. Web.

Popiolkowski, JJ & Cull, NJ ‘Public Diplomacy, Cultural Interventions & the Peace Process in Northern Ireland. Track Two to Peace?’; USC University, 2009.

Powell, J ‘Great Hatred, Little Room’; Bodley Head, 2008.

Powell, J ‘Tea and biscuits at a safe house in Derry’; The Guardian. 2008.

Stevenson, J ‘Peace in Northern Ireland: Why Now?’; Foreign Policy, 1998.

War, Peace and Politics’; New Statesman, Vol. 127, 1998.

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