The ‘Irish problem’ has long been a euphemism in European Union (EU) circles for the contested status of Northern Ireland. The term took on a new meaning overnight on June 12, 2008, after which the ‘Irish problem’ debated across Europe was Ireland's second rejection of an EU treaty (Lisbon) and the consequent stalling of European integration. The breakdown of results for the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon (46.6 per cent ‘Yes’ to 53.4 per cent ‘No’) was almost identical to that of the first referendum on the Treaty of Nice in 2001. It is evident that the ‘No’ to Lisbon does not represent a dramatic about-turn in Ireland's approach to European membership. This afterword considers three key features of this path: the lack of a ‘vision’ of European integration, the mediating role of the national political elite, and the public response to Irish official discourse on the EU. It explores how Irish nationalism's symbiotic relationship with European integration can be not merely reprieved but readjusted.
Northern Ireland’s regional experience of globalised trends
Chapter nine explores the role of NGOs in assessing business and the private sector in promoting peace in Northern Ireland. Analyses of Northern Ireland’s peace process tend to concentrate on the public or non-profit sector. The role of the private sector has been more or less ignored. The lack of scholarly focus may reflect the traditional gap in comprehension and cooperation between business and peace. This, however, is changing. Liberal IR assumptions about the spillover effects of economic development have morphed into analysis of the potential for globalisation to improve international connections, thus making the recourse to violence less likely. At a sub-state level, the same liberal premises are present in the concept of business-based peacebuilding, which identifies a natural complementarity between the objectives of private sector actors and the maintenance of a stable, sustainable peace.
The Good Friday Agreement is widely celebrated as a political success story, one that has brought peace to a region previously synonymous across the globe with political violence. The truth, as ever, is rather more complicated than that. In many respects, the era of the peace process has seen Northern Irish society change almost beyond recognition. Those incidents of politically motivated violence that were once commonplace have become thankfully rare, and a new generation has emerged whose identities and interests are rather more fluid and cosmopolitan than those of their parents. In many other regards, however, Northern Ireland continues to operate in the long shadow of its own turbulent recent past. Those who were victims of violence, as well as those who were its agents, have often been consigned to the margins of a society clearly still struggling to cope with the traumas of the Troubles. Furthermore, the transition to ‘peace’ has revealed the existence of new, and not so new, forms of violence in Northern Irish society, not least those directed towards women, ethnic minorities and the poor. In Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday, we set out to capture the complex, and often contradictory, realities that have emerged more than two decades on from the region’s vaunted peace deal. Across nine original essays, the book provides a critical and comprehensive reading of a society that often appears to have left its violent past behind but at the same time remains subject to its gravitational pull.