The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Insights from Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland

PBPL 85: Task Force Report - Fall 2014
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David
Brooks
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Ester
Cross
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Ayesha
Dholakia
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Zachary
Markovich
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Summer
Modelfino
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Noah
Reichblum
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Kevin
Schorr
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Heather
Szilagyi
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Fiona
Weeks
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David
Wylie
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Nicholas
Zehner
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Executive Summary

Thomas Hobbes once wrote that “the condition of man...is a condition of war.”1

Violence—as a vehicle for achieving greater political goals—is a natural phenomenon. But what policies can reverse the inclination for violence and foster peace instead?

The following memorandum extrapolates lessons from Northern Ireland's “Troubles”— a sectarian war between Irish Catholics and British Protestants—to present policy recommendations on how to end conflict, construct peace accords, and build societal reconciliation.

The six-county British province of Northern Ireland is innocuously described by locals as a “wee little place.” Yet in 1969, brutal violence erupted. Catholics eager to re-unite with the Republic of Ireland fought Protestants determined to retain formal connections with the United Kingdom. The British Army failed to immediately quell the violence between nationalists (Catholics who believed in a united Ireland) and unionists (Protestants who supported the United Kingdom). After three decades, 3,665 deaths, and hundreds of dirty bombs, a 1998 peace deal gave Catholics full civil rights but further cemented Northern Ireland as a dominion of the United Kingdom.

Ironically, both the United Kingdom and Ireland would like to ignore Northern Ireland. While peace exists, the politics remain identity-based, century- old history still dictates where people live and whom they marry, and the public-sector economy drains British financial resources. Yet it is exactly because of these conditions – features which manifest in so many other global conflicts – that Northern Ireland demands the attention of all those interested in armed conflict.

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