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Forcing Peace: John Hume’s “Long Struggle” in Northern Ireland, 1982–1998

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Political Leadership in Foreign Policy
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Abstract

For most of the twentieth century, the citizens of Northern Ireland were caught in a long, bloody struggle between violent and apparently irreconcilable opponents. Alongside the raging dispute between British government troops and paramilitary forces, a battle of ideas raged as well between moderates and radicals on both sides. Extremists embraced violence, viewing it as the only practical alternative and indeed the most heroic path for true patriots. Advocates of nonviolent negotiation found their methods scorned and their proposals rejected as futile. Action—especially violent action—and not talk was perceived to be the most expeditious means of achieving the desired outcome of addressing the second-class role of Catholic citizens in a Protestant-dominated state. In the midst of the overwhelming push to take up arms, John Hume—a Catholic school teacher moved to political action by the injustice he observed in his community—saw the situation differently and employed a range of le dership strategies to mobilize support and move beyond the conflicting parties toward a peace agreement. This chapter describes Hume’s own “long struggle” for peace that culminated in the Good Friday Accords of 1998.

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Notes

  1. Brendan O’Leary and John McGarry, The Politics of Antagonism: Understanding Northern Ireland (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: The Athlone Press, 1993): 161.

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  2. John Hume, “Commencement Address at the University of Massachusetts,” Congressional Record, 131, no. 67 (May 21, 1985): 3.

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  6. Sydney Elliott and Richard A. Wilford, The 1982 Northern Ireland Assembly Election, Studies in Public Policy (Glasgow: University of Strathclyde [Center for the Study of Public Policy], 1983): 31.

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  9. Bill Rolston, “Alienation or Political Awareness? The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Northern Nationalists,” in Beyond the Rhetoric: Politics, The Economy, and Social Policy in Northern Ireland, edited by Paul Teague (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1987): 78; and William Graham, “Accord Advances Real Says Hume,” Irish News (November 11, 1986).

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  10. Thomas Hennessy, The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles? (New York: Palgrave, 2001): 75.

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  11. The 1988 talks foundered because the focus was on differences in policies, strategies, and goals between SF and the SDLP; perhaps the largest obstacle was Adams’s refusal to agree with Hume that Britain was “neutral” and would support unity by consent. In 1993, the talks were more productive because interparty differences were set aside to focus on the issue of an IRA cease-fire and how to get SF into inclusive negotiations. Hume’s talks with Adams caused a major rift within the SDLP because SF was at low ebb; dissenters argued that Hume’s actions brought SF back from their near-defeat. One SDLP councilor stated, “We helped Sinn Fein and now they are standing on our fingers” (SDLP councilor (anonymous), interview with author, Belfast, September 1997). The joint statements issued by Hume and Adams during this period were especially objectionable to some SDLP members, especially because these statements were faxed to newspapers on SF paper. Further, the fact that Adams and Hume decided not to publish the details of the agreement reached in 1993 created great debate in all circles (Marie-Therese Fay, The Battle for Control of the Nationalist Agenda: S.D.L.P. and S.F. Competition, 1982–1996 [Dissertation, Queen’s University, 1996]).

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  12. James Goodman, Nationalism and Transnationalism: The National Conflict in Ireland and European Union Integration (Brookfield, VT: Avebury, 1996): 114.

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  13. For example, see Robert Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

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  14. See Gene M. Lyons and Michael Mastanduno, eds., Beyond Westphalia: State Sovereignty and International Intervention (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

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  15. John Hume, Address to SDLP Annual Party Conference, 1996 <http://www.sdlp.ie> (1996): 19.

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  16. John Hume, Address to SDLP Annual Party Conference, 1998 <http://www.sdlp.ie> (1998).

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  17. John Hume, Address to SDLP Annual Party Conference, 1994 <http://www.sdlp.ie> (1994): 5–7.

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  18. Paul Bew and Gordon Gillespie, Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968–1993 (Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1993): 204.

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  19. Coogan, 1996: 384. For additional examples of Clinton’s “commercial diplomacy,” see Conor O’Clery, The Greening of the White House: The Inside Story of How America Tried to Bring Peace to Ireland (Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1996).

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© 2007 Andrea K. Grove

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Grove, A.K. (2007). Forcing Peace: John Hume’s “Long Struggle” in Northern Ireland, 1982–1998. In: Political Leadership in Foreign Policy. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230604339_2

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