Assessing the importance of ideas and agency in the Northern Ireland peace process
in Theories of International Relations and Northern Ireland
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This chapter examines the importance of ideas and agency in the Northern Ireland peace process by focusing on the former leader of the SDLP and joint Nobel Peace Prize Winner, John Hume. Hume was one of the most important and long-standing elites in Northern Ireland conflict. He emerged first as a civil rights leader at the outset of the Troubles, was a founding member of the SDLP, and was central to the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Moreover, Hume played a unique dual role in his career. First, he was a political thinker, or perhaps more accurately an articulator, of a new approach to the Northern Ireland problem. Second, Hume was a key negotiator and political broker, most significantly helping to persuade militant republicans to adopt a peaceful political strategy, continually engaging with British and Irish political elites, and even guiding external actors like the US government and the EU in their respective inputs to the Northern Ireland peace process.

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