A constructivist realist critique of idealism and conservative realism
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.
Military families, British public opinion and withdrawal from Northern Ireland
There has been a recent attempt to claim that the IRA was defeated in the early 1990s and the peace process represented their gradual surrender. The IRA’s campaign is presented as a futile and naive attempt to force the ‘Great British’ to withdraw from Northern Ireland. This chapter, by contrast, argues that the IRA’s campaign to force British withdrawal from Northern Ireland was not irrational. The British had just withdrawn from Empire and republicans tended to see Ireland as Britain’s first and last colony. Leading British politicians were ambivalent about the Union. The first public opinion poll suggesting a majority of the British public favoured withdrawal from Northern Ireland was published in September 1971. Since the mid-1970s polls have suggested consistent support for withdrawal. The demand for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland is often presented by those on the Left and Right as a pro-republican position. The ‘Bring Back the Boys from Ulster Campaign’ was launched in May 1973 among military families. It reflected ‘a real stirring’ in the nation for withdrawal, impacted on army recruitment and was motivated more by British chauvinist sentiment than Irish nationalism or republicanism This chapter will argue that this British nationalist movement for withdrawal while ultimately unsuccessful represented a powerful constraint on policy and helps to explain British scepticism about military intervention in Yugoslavia in the early nineties.