Beyond Intractability
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Mari Fitzduff
Professor and Director of the MA Conflict and Coexistence Programme at Brandeis University
Interviewed by
Julian Portilla

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A: The big problem we faced was what do we do with the paramilitaries, most of the men who got great meaning, great excitement out of being paramilitaries. My own doctorate work had looked at the whole phenomenon of paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, so I knew many of them.

We spent some time then, this was slightly informal, outside of the organization, putting in place a lot of programs for paramilitaries so they would learn about politics and they would learn how to gain power through politics, rather than just feeling they had to go back to the gun to keep power. If you actually track where they've got to, the loyalist groups that took on the political role successfully and gained seats in a way maintained the ceasefires. The loyalist groups who didn't gain seats didn't maintain the ceasefires and until just this year have continued to be a bit of a problem. That's what I call the left over testosterone problem, particularly for the men.

Q: Because they felt excluded from political power?

A: They had no power, they had no more power because the power was shifting and changing. There were fascinating conversations with many of these groups where they were very explicitly saying, can you guarantee we will gain power through the vote? If not, we'll just go back to violence. This was the smaller loyalist group. So, there was a lot of work that needed to be done like that, and indeed a lot of work needed to be done in retraining paramilitaries and reintegrating them into communities, etc., afterward.

Then all the dominoes began to fall and it was fairly clear that peace was coming, albeit fairly slowly, to Northern Ireland. But it always does come like this, and I always say conflicts end not with a bang but a whimper after whimper after whimper.

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