Skip to main content

Civil Society and the Northern Irish Peace Process

Abstract

Alternative accounts of the Northern Irish peace process are analyzed. It is noted that neither Unionist nor Republican accounts accord a significant or positive role to civil society in the reaching of a political settlement. It is only in what might be called the metropolitan liberal perspective that influence is attributed to the role of civil society in achieving a settlement. Two junctures at which civil society, centered on the third sector, played a prominent role in the peace process are analyzed: the Opsahl Commission before the launch of the peace process in 1993 and the nonparty “Yes” campaign during the referendum on the Belfast Agreement in May 1998. The paper then goes on to discuss why the influence of civil society has declined since the referendum, and draws attention to the conflict between the top-down implications of the consociational nature of the Belfast Agreement and the bottom-up promotion of political accommodation through civil society.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Bew, P., and Gillespie, G. (1999). Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-1999, Gill and Macmillan, Dublin.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Breen, S. (February 2002). Will the mass rallies bring peace? Fortnight, No. 402, p. 7.

  3. Cochrane, F. (2001). Unsung heroes? The role of peace and conflict resolution organizations in the Northern Ireland conflict. In: McGarry, J. (ed.), Northern Ireland and the Divided World: Post-Agreement Northern Ireland in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 137-156.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cochrane, F., and Dunn, S. (2002). People Power? The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in the Northern Ireland Conflict, Cork University Press, Cork.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Couto, R. A. (2001). The third sector and civil society: The case of the “YES” campaign in Northern Ireland. Voluntas 12 (3): 221-238.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Cox, M., Guelke, A., and Stephen, F. (eds.) (2000). A Farewell to Arms? From “Long War” to Long Peace in Northern Ireland, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Dixon, P. (1997). Paths to peace in Northern Ireland (I): Civil society and consociational approaches. Democratization 4(2): 1-27.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Elliott, S. (1999). The referendum and Assembly elections in Northern Ireland. Irish Polit. Stud. 14: 138-149.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Elliott, M. (2002). Religion and identity in Northern Ireland. In: Elliott, M. (ed.), The Long Road to Peace in Northern Ireland, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, England, pp. 169-185.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Gidron, B., Katz, S., Meyer, M., Hasenfeld, Y., Schwartz, R., and Crane, J. K. (1999). Peace and conflict resolution organizations in three protracted conflicts: Structures, resources and ideology. Voluntas 10(4): 275-298.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hauswedell, C., and Brown, K. (2002). Burying the Hatchet: The Decommissioning of Paramilitary Arms in Northern Ireland, Bonn International Center for Conversion (Brief No. 22), Bonn.

  12. Horowitz, D. L. (2001). The Northern Ireland Agreement: Clear, consociational, and risky. In: McGarry, J. (ed.), Northern Ireland and the Divided World: Post-Agreement Northern Ireland in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 137-156.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Lijphart, A. (1977). Democracy in Plural Societies, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Mallie, E., and McKittrick, D. (1996). The Fight for Peace: The Secret Story Behind the Irish Peace Process, Heinemann, London.

    Google Scholar 

  15. McGarry, J. (2001). Northern Ireland, civic nationalism, and the Good Friday Agreement. In: McGarry, J. (ed.), Northern Ireland and the Divided World: Post-Agreement Northern Ireland in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 109-136.

    Google Scholar 

  16. McGarry, J., and O'Leary, B. (1990). Conclusion. Northern Ireland's options: A framework and an analysis. In: McGarry J., and O'Leary, B. (eds.), The Future of Northern Ireland, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 268-303.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Oliver, Q. (1998). Working for “Yes”: The Story of the May 1998 Referendum in Northern Ireland, The “Yes” Campaign, Belfast.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Oliver, Q. (March 2002). Protests can make a difference. Fortnight, No. 403, p. 34.

  19. Pollak, A. (1993). A Citizens' Inquiry: The Opsahl Report on Northern Ireland, The Lilliput Press, Dublin.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Taylor, R. (2001). Northern Ireland: Consociation or social transformation? In: McGarry, J. (ed.), Northern Ireland and the Divided World: Post-Agreement Northern Ireland in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 36-52.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Whyte, N. (2001). Northern Ireland elections: 7 June 2001. www.explorers.whyte.com

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Adrian Guelke.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Guelke, A. Civil Society and the Northern Irish Peace Process. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 14, 61–78 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022992905795

Download citation

  • civil society
  • peace process
  • Northern Ireland
  • Belfast Agreement
  • third sector
  • Opsahl Commission
  • referendum
  • consociationalism