Negotiating a Settlement in Northern Ireland, 1969-2019 by John Coakley (Professor and Member of the Royal Irish Academy, Professor and Member of the Royal Irish Academy, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen's University Belfast, and Geary Institute, University College Dublin)
Negotiating a Settlement in Northern Ireland: From Sunningdale to St Andrews uses original material from witness seminars, elite interviews, and archive documents to explore the shape taken by the Irish peace process, and in particular to analyse the manner in which successful stages of this were negotiated. Northern Ireland's Good Friday Agreement of 1998 marked the end a 30-year conflict that had witnessed more than 3,000 deaths, thousands of injuries, catastrophic societal damage, and large-scale economic dislocation. This book traces the roots of the Agreement over the decades, stretching back to the Sunningdale conference of 1973 and extending up to at least the St Andrews Agreement of 2006. It describes the changing relationship between parties to the conflict (nationalist and unionist groups within Northern Ireland, and the Irish and British governments) and identifies three dimensions of significant change: new ways of implementing the concept of sovereignty, growing acceptance of power sharing, and the steady emergence of substantial equality in the socio-economic, cultural, and political domains. As well as placing this in the context of an extensive social science literature, the book innovates by looking at the manner in which those most closely involved understood the process in which they were engaged. The authors reproduce testimonies from witness seminars and interviews involving central actors, including former prime ministers, ministers, senior officials, and political advisors. They conclude that the outcome was shaped by a distinctive interaction between the conscious planning of these elites and changing demographic and political realities that themselves were, in a symbiotic way, consequences of decisions made in earlier years. They also note the extent to which this settlement has come under pressure from new notions of sovereignty implicit in the Brexit process.