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.
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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
- civil society
- peace process
- Northern Ireland
- Belfast Agreement
- third sector
- Opsahl Commission