Silencing and the Northern Ireland Peace Process
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A palpable silence exists in Northern Ireland regarding the Troubles and whether they may return. Rusciano describes five reasons related to world opinion why this silencing occurs. First, international opinion demands that the society examine the abuses of the past; but residents fear that an examination will disrupt the peace and their reputation as a model for the world. A second related problem is that delving into the past, no matter how important for their Fremdbild, could prompt a resumption of violence. Third, despite its global reputation as a peaceful community, Northern Ireland remains a region divided into communities where individuals speak with their own about the past, and silence statements to the general public. Fourth, the consociational government that grew out of the peace agreement often silences citizen demands that do not fit into the Unionist/Republican narrative due to the guaranteed representation each group receives. Finally, because of the divisions still in the society, victims are often silenced because they cannot tell their stories until they have a sympathetic audience on both sides, but they likely cannot find a sympathetic audience on both sides until they speak. Rusciano examines patterns of silencing before and after the peace agreement, and finds that those in favor of the peace tended to fall silent before the referendum on the agreement. He also finds that afterwards those who supported the agreement were less likely to fear silencing than those who did not, but they were still often reluctant to speak out. He does find that those who identify as Northern Irish and who supported the agreement are more likely to state their affiliation in a foreign country, thereby suggesting a Selbstbild in line with their international reputation as a model for the world.