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An honourable deception? The Labour government, the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process


The former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Chief of Staff and key negotiator on the Province, Jonathan Powell, have admitted that they used deception to advance the peace process in Northern Ireland. This article argues that the Labour government misled the people of Northern Ireland about the implications of the Good Friday Agreement to secure a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the deal. During the referendum campaign British Prime Minister was prominent among those arguing that there would be decommissioning before either paramilitary prisoners were released or Sinn Féin sat in government. Legislation to release paramilitary prisoners without prior decommissioning was introduced into Parliament just 2 weeks after the referendum. In December 1999 Sinn Féin entered government without IRA decommissioning. Tony Blair later acknowledged that the ‘political skills’ that were initially useful in pushing the peace process forward became counterproductive and undermined the moderate powersharing settlement that the GFA was intended to deliver. Powersharing between the hardline parties in 2007 was the fortuitous, if less desirable, outcome.

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I am very grateful to Steve Kettell, the Co-editor of British Politics, for his support in publishing this article. Thank you also to the anonymous referees for their helpful comments. I’d also like to express gratitude to Professor Eric Kaufmann, Vice-President of Southfields and Wimbledon Irish Society, for providing the transcript of the Orange Order meeting. None of the above are responsible for any of the arguments expressed in this article.

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Dixon, P. An honourable deception? The Labour government, the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process. Br Polit 8, 108–137 (2013).

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