Conflict Resolution In Northern Ireland: Reconciling Form and Substance
By Clem McCarthy
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
. "Conflict Resolution In Northern Ireland: Reconciling Form and Substance." Conflict Resolution Notes, Vol. 11, No. 3. January 1994. Pp. 34-35.
McCarthy discusses the Anglo-Irish Declaration of December 15, 1993. There have been on-going negotiations between political nationalism representatives (the Social Democratic and Labour Party), and those of militant nationalism in Northern Ireland (Sinn Fein), forces demanding unification with Ireland and representing the Catholic community. The goal of those negotiations was "to find formula for a republican cease fire" (p. 34). Protestant unionists have been suspicious of some conspiracy within the opposing side. In September 1993, the nationalist leaders revealed that they had created a document that can promote a peace settlement. After the British and Irish Prime Ministers announced the Declaration, it became obvious that there were links between the Irish Prime Minister and Protestants, and it became known that the British government communicated with Sinn Fein. What was interesting about the negotiation process proceeding the Declaration was that first, the role of mediators was performed not by neutral outsiders but by church leaders trusted by both sides, and second, the primary parties were not directly participating in the negotiation process. The Declaration itself does not present any new ideas and does not provide any mechanisms for action. Then what is so important about it? To answer this question the author compares the Declaration with the Central American Contadora Act. They are similar in a way that they provide political conditions under which the actual parties can start negotiations. The important difference between the recent declaration and Anglo-Irish Declaration of 1985 is that while the latter excluded IRA from negotiation process, the former allowed the IRA to declare a cease fire and become a part of negotiation process. In addition the Declaration was announced in the context of public opinion strongly supporting a reduction of violence and peaceful conflict management. The declaration gave a chance to those in the militant wing of the movement who favor a more peaceful approach to ending the conflict to pursue their way. The author thinks that the timing of the agreement was right, although he believes that it would have been better if the agreement was the result of a discussion incorporating a wider range of parties. But the agreement did create conditions that can be used by the primary parties to start a dialogue.