British Politics

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 2–27

Political strategies of engagement: Unionists and dealing with the past in Northern Ireland

  • Kirk Simpson
Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/bp.2012.20

Cite this article as:
Simpson, K. Br Polit (2013) 8: 2. doi:10.1057/bp.2012.20


This article argues that unionists in Northern Ireland can begin to rethink their strategies for dealing with the legacy of the conflict. This would represent a potentially major shift in unionist political thought, but it is intimately connected to the need for unionists to avoid counter-productive strategies of non-engagement in the historical debate. This article considers some of the ways in which unionist political parties are currently trying to engage with and manage the past, and suggests that their methods are based on an attempt to establish a unionist political ideal that is somewhat incongruent with contemporary politics in Northern Ireland. Using a more practical approach, consonant with the changed post-conflict environment, unionists can attempt to configure and articulate individual and collective narratives accurately depicting their history. Such narratives can be used with confidence in debate and discourse with their political opponents, helping to ensure that unionist victims are both recognized and remembered.


political strategy Northern Ireland unionism conflict the past 

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirk Simpson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, University of UlsterNorthern IrelandUK

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