1 Dec 2008

The Road to Peace in Ireland

Transitions Series No. 6

The history of resistance to English/British interference in Ireland over eight centuries has gone through many different phases: passive resistance, agrarian unrest, armed uprising, setbacks, defeats and regroupings, temporary victories, mass movements and political agitation, language and cultural struggles, democratic gains, and constitutional and parliamentary engagement. The last is often the most challenging phase to any revolutionary movement.


Authors

Bairbre de Brún

Editors

Véronique Dudouet, David Bloomfield

 

This analysis could rapidly get lost or bogged down in too much historical detail or a discussion of the variety of personalities and shifting power bases and rivalries that were involved over many centuries. Thus, I will concentrate mostly on the main developments in our struggle from the time of the civil rights movement in the North of Ireland in 1968. That is how I shall address the three points that were asked in this project:

  • How does a movement become drawn into armed struggle?
  • What factors persuade people to move towards non-armed political strategy?
  • How is that strategy defined?

Although there was of course political armed struggle and there was political non-armed struggle, for the purpose of this paper and in the context of this project, when I use the term ‘political’ I mean ‘non-armed’.

About this Publication Series

This case study is one of a series produced by participants in an ongoing Berghof research project on transitions from violence to peace. The project’s overall aim is to learn from the experience of those in resistance or liberation movements who have used violence in their struggle but have also engaged politically during the conflict and in any peace process. Recent experience around the world has demonstrated that reaching political settlement in protracted social conflict always eventually needs the involvement of such movements. Our aim here is to discover how, from a non-state perspective, such political development is handled, what is the relationship between political and military strategies and tactics, and to learn more about how such movements (often sweepingly and simplistically bundled under the label of non-state armed groups) contribute to the transformation of conflict and to peacemaking. We can then use that experiential knowledge (1) to offer support to other movements who might be considering such a shift of strategy, and (2) to help other actors (states and international) to understand more clearly how to engage meaningfully with such movements to bring about political progress and peaceful settlement.

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