From the ‘long war’ to the ‘long peace’
Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement
in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday
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In this chapter, we provide an overview of political developments since the Good Friday Agreement in order to establish the historical context for the diverse essays that follow. We begin by depicting the tensions, especially over the issue of ‘decommissioning’, that hobbled the early attempts at power-sharing government and would lead to several suspensions of the Stormont assembly. We then move on to explain how it was that the supposedly ‘extremist’ parties – Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party – were able to forge the deal that would, finally, bring seemingly stable devolved government to Northern Ireland. For all the semblance of stability, these unlikely coalition partners would over time become riven by multiple and deepening forms of division. Some of these arose out of the ethnonational disputes that are the traditional fare of Northern Irish political life – flags, parades and language rights. Others would derive from class issues less familiar to the political culture in the region – in particular, the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act. These tensions would eventually lead to the collapse of the Stormont institutions, a suspension that was widely attributed to a controversial renewable energy scheme but in fact owed a great deal more to developments elsewhere in the UK. The outcome of the Brexit referendum has altered, perhaps irrevocably, the political context of Northern Ireland, ushering in an era of profound constitutional flux. While the Stormont assembly has been restored, the advent of the coronavirus has merely served to highlight the animosities that exist among the supposed coalition partners. As Northern Ireland prepares for its centenary, there are forces at play that threaten/promise to question its very existence in the very near future.

Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday

Lost futures and new horizons in the ‘long peace’

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