The ‘real’ and ‘dirty’ politics of the Northern Ireland peace process
A constructivist realist critique of idealism and conservative realism
in Theories of International Relations and Northern Ireland
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The chapter argues that Idealist and Realist paradigms cannot explain the Northern Ireland peace process. Idealism underestimated communal antagonisms and failed to appreciate the difficult role played by politicians in achieving an elite compromise. Realists underestimated the possibilities of political change because they have a static, essentialist view of identity which underestimates the role of political elites. Constructivism provides a more flexible framework for analysing the ‘real’ politics by which the peace process was advanced. A Constructivist framework and theatrical metaphor are provide a more complex and nuanced understanding of politics. This approach takes into account the constraints and opportunities facing political actors and the consequent morality of the ‘political skills’ or deception and manipulation that were used to drive the peace process forward.

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