International Politics

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 210–228

‘Rosy Catholics’ and ‘Dour Prods’: President Clinton and the Northern Ireland peace process

  • Paul Dixon
Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/ip.2010.3

Cite this article as:
Dixon, P. Int Polit (2010) 47: 210. doi:10.1057/ip.2010.3


This article challenges the orthodox, ‘pan-nationalist’ view of the impact of the Cold War and President Clinton's role in the Northern Ireland peace process. It is argued that this orthodox view places much faith in the ‘front stage’; self-congratulatory accounts of political actors who sought to enhance their reputations through involvement in the peace process. A theatrical metaphor is deployed to ‘go behind the scenes’ and produce a more nuanced account of the influence of the US President. It is argued first, that the pan-nationalist charade deliberately exaggerated Clinton's role in order to demonstrate the power of ‘unarmed struggle’ and win over a key republican audience to the peace process. Second, the British government, to some extent, played its ‘villainous’ role in the pan-nationalist charade because it understood the Sinn Fein leadership's problems in bringing a united republican movement into a ceasefire. Third, the peace process was emerging well before the US President took his cue from Irish nationalist politicians to enter the political stage. Fourth, the ‘pan-nationalist’ view does not consider the malign impact of the US role on unionism, which underlined unionist isolation and undermined pro-Agreement unionism. Finally, it is argued that President Clinton's grasp of the ‘realities’ of Northern Irish politics was not firm and the President oscillated between an overoptimistic ‘modernising’ view of the conflict and over-pessimistic primordial – ‘Rosy Catholics’ and ‘Dour Prods’ – view neither of which accurately describes the conflict.


Northern IrelandClintonInternationalpeace process

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Dixon
    • 1
  1. 1.Tower 709, School of Social Sciences, Kingston UniversityUK