"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed": institutionalizing radical disagreement and dealing with the past in Northern Ireland

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This chapter begins to track the emergence of a peculiar ‘Northern Ireland model’ of dealing with violent pasts after political peace agreement. It draws on Oliver Ramsbotham’s idea of ‘radical disagreement’ and Chantal Mouffe’s conception of ‘agonistic pluralism’ as theoretical perspectives to reflect on how key conflict positions and key contradictions of the conflict have been institutionalised to discontinue violence. It goes on to discuss empirically how the order of this compromise is structuring efforts to deal with the past in what remains an ambiguous transition towards discordant constitutional futures. It demonstrates that in the absence of an overarching framework for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, the model is coming into view as accumulated, piecemeal, pluralistic, complex and often contradictory efforts, emerging in the tensions between radical disagreement and attempts at reconciliation, between community initiatives and policy discourses, in what may be called a protracted peace process. The chapter argues that navigating this paradox of fixity and fluidity has crucially involved somewhat futile attempts at separating distinct lines of truth and justice in coming to terms with the past. However, the model does perhaps present some possibilities for agonistic pluralism generated at the societal level.
Keywords: Northern Ireland, Conflict, Peace Process, Dealing with the Past.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResolving international conflict : dynamics of escalation and continuation
EditorsIsabel Bramsen, Poul Poder, Ole Wæver
Place of publicationAbingdon
PublisherRoutledge
Publication yearMay 2019
Pages149-164
ISBN (print)978-1138104860
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
SeriesStudies in Peace and Conflict Resolution

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