Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace


Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace by Feargal Cochrane.
New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace’ critically assesses
the background and evolution of the violence created by the
Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its followers. It examines
the determinants of the Northern Ireland solution process
from violence to a long-term peace between 1690 and the
present day and the influential factors behind the conflict,
including the religious, historical, political, economic
and cultural factors.

The author clearly details the reasons for the conflict in
the region through ten chronological chapters. The book has
three distinct sections which refer to different terms and
solution attempts. The first section, which covers 1690 to
1920, critically assesses the history of the problem by
discussing the term ‘sectarianism’ and the conflict between
Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. Its explanation of the
disputes between the unionist and nationalist communities
of Ireland provides a strong background for understanding
this tension. The second section, which covers 1921 to 1990,
analyses the traditional efforts to bring terrorism to an
end. However, the third part, covering 1993 to the present
day, underlines the alternative methods to armed struggle
for solving conflicts. These modern efforts include political
attempts to bring disputing sides to the table. However, the
author highlights the fact that the failure of political
endeavours deepens military struggle (p. 96-97). As the scope
suggests, this book provides a thorough overview of the
history of the Northern Ireland conflict.

One particularly strong argument in the book regards violent
and non-violent solution efforts. Cochrane analyses different
reasons for armed and political struggles and looks at how
the IRA finds a space to survive and expands its movement
area by analysing unsuccessful political attempts. This
explains the existence of a nationalist approach and on-going
violence against the British army when political efforts collapse.

The author grew up in East Belfast and is Catholic. Although this
situation might have created a problem in terms of objectivity,
it actually helps the author to analyse the issue in detail. For
example, the author clearly assesses the relationship between
Catholic and Protestant societies, demonstrating the goals and
attacks of the IRA and the response of the British government.

Certain themes arise throughout the book, for instance the
psychological element of terrorism, such as political speeches,
negotiations and hunger strikes. He also recounts hunger strikes
as a psychological factor and argues that they are not only a
determinant but also a supportive factor for the IRA to manufacture
public opinion.

The author is wholly aware of the historical and political
dimensions and frames the book around major breaking points of
the conflict, such as Bloody Sunday, the Downing Street Declaration
and the Good Friday Agreement. While the analysis of the conflicting
sides and counter-insurgency acts of the British government, as well
as other determinants, provides a strong background for understanding
the conflict, it also draws a general perspective for future research.

Indeed, the author describes the nature of this issue as multifaceted
and it has an international dimension which comprises the pressure
of the international society on the IRA to end the violence. The
international dimension does not consist solely of the force of
powerful states or NGOs; it also covers the Irish-Americans’ lobby
in the U.S. and peaceful solution efforts towards this tension.

Often, Cochrane’s thoughts on modern ways for resolving conflicts
focus on ‘talking to the enemy’. As is expected, he describes this
process as very sensitive towards armed conflict. He demonstrates a
great degree of acquaintance with non-violent peace efforts and
clearly explains them through diplomatic relations, the media’s
role in the disarmament of the IRA and social networking sites.
This focus on peaceful operations is very important; however, I
would have expected more specific details in this area. Hence,
the author addresses general mediation and negotiation terms for
bringing the British government and the representatives of the
IRA into discussions. However, he does not describe the nature of
these conflict resolution terms. The study would be strengthened
by analysing these terms in depth through the components of
conflict resolution efforts and comparing them with negotiation
efforts in other parts of the world.

An updated version of this review will be published at the
Political Studies Review in 2014.

For more click

Kadioglu, I. A. (2015), ‘Northern Ireland, The Reluctant Peace’, by Feargal Cochrane, Political Studies Review, 13, 1.

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