History, structure and action in the settlement of complex conflicts: the Northern Ireland case

Posted on behalf of Joseph Ruane and Jennifer Todd

Blog from the Special Issue of Irish Political Studies: Breaking patterns of conflict in Northern Ireland: the British and Irish states

What was the Good Friday Agreement? A final settlement, to be sold abroad as a success story and model for other peace processes? Or a wrong turn, as the flags protest is finally showing? And if it was a major step forward in the road to peace – as we think – how was it possible? In our article, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07907184.2013.874997#.UxCkEIXn_o4 we argue that the political agreement, brought in 1998 in Belfast and secured further in 2006 at St Andrews with so much political effort, mediation, planning, was dependent for its success on longer-running changes in the  power balance and in the stance of the British (and Irish) states. Good Friday was not Sunningdale for slow learners – its institutional similarities to the Sunningdale settlement were situated in a radically different structural and geo-political context and that is why Sunningdale was brought down in months, and Good Friday remains after 15 years. But the longer-run changes are far from complete, and the lack of clarity and momentum here underlies the recent flags protest and the crises that have followed. Continue reading

Breaking patterns of conflict in Northern Ireland.

IPS Image

Posted on behalf of John Coakley and Jennifer Todd

Blog from the Special Issue of Irish Political Studies: Breaking patterns of conflict in Northern Ireland: the British and Irish states

The British and Irish governments were central to the move to peace in Northern Ireland. Their negotiations and mutual agreements, their cooperation and coordinated stances and pressures, led finally to the Agreement reached in 1998. Their continued  cooperation and intervention remains central to the stability of the settlement. The motives of state actors, however, have been unclear, and the role of the state in the political process has been the subject of scholarly controversy. Did the British do their best, keep their patience, and try to get the parties to reach agreement? And how ‘perfidious’ were they, and in what ways? Were the Irish helpful or difficult? This article from the Special Issue of Irish Political Studies ‘Breaking Patterns of Conflict in Northern Ireland’ http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07907184.2013.874998#.UxChnIXn_o4 looks at the types of evidence that can help to resolve such questions. It argues that – for all of the problems of elite evidence, elite self-justifications and elite dissimulation, the best way to understand state strategies is to ask the people involved. Of course one must critically compare their answers one with another, with the written record, and with other documentation: but if we want to see the meaning of state actions, the possibilities that politicians and officials were holding open in their own minds, we have to ask them. Continue reading

The Irish Constitutional Convention completes its work

Irish CC in action

*Declaration of interest: I am the research director of the Convention (in a voluntary capacity).

Last weekend, the Constitutional Convention completed its work.  At its closing dinner last Saturday, the snappy slogan on the menu summed things up well: ’100 members, 10 meetings, 1 constitution’. With a budget of some €900,000 and a deadline of one year (that ultimately was extended by a further two months), the Convention surpassed all expectations. Continue reading

In elections it’s not just how votes are counted that matters

The first annual report of the highly influential Electoral Integrity Project has just been published (see here). Professor Pippa Norris and her colleagues have carried out an extensive survey of the electoral process across the world’s democracies over the past few years. Ireland’s last election (2011) preceded this project so it was not included on this occasion, but as the work of this project continues, our next election will come under scrutiny. Continue reading

Seanad Éireann: Lots to Reform

After the Irish people chose to retain the Seanad last year, the focus has now shifted to the question of reform. The government has announced its intention to reform the University franchise as allowed by the 1978 amendment to the Constitution. The main campaigning platform for Seanad retention, Democracy Matters, has embarked on a new campaign to argue for reform. The Royal Irish Academy recently held a symposium bringing experts on Bicameralism together to discuss the prospects for change.

The main focus of reform is on the extension of the franchise as envisaged in the Zappone-Quinn and Crown bills tabled last year. However David Farrell, in today’s Irish Times, points out Continue reading

European Commission corruption report on Ireland


Elaine Byrne 3 February 2014

The European Commission published its first Anti-Corruption report today.

Information on the Eurobarometer polls and summaries of each country can be found here

The Ireland chapter is here.

The report makes a number of observations across different sectors of Irish public life. It has commended the government for the reforms it has introduced but states that more needs to be done, particularly when it comes to prosecuting corruption.

The European Commission report was written by European Commission officials from DG Home. It was researched by me with the assistance of Trinity College Dublin, Government of Ireland scholar Mark Carpenter.

Political Party Accounts, Unaccounted For?


Elaine Byrne 31 January 2014

An exchange between the Chair of the Standards in Public Office Commission recently the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., with regard to the draft guidelines on political finance largely went by unnoticed. Just as unnoticed were the implications of the far-reaching Electoral (Political Funding) Act 2012. 

The potential effect of the Minister’s decision not to implement the Standard Commission recommendations on party finance is that Fine Gael, and the state’s other political parties, are not obliged to provided a detailed set of accounts until 2016. The cynical might suggest the timing is thus convenient – after the 2016 election.

This is my submission to the Standards Commission, based on research conducted for the IDEA index of political financing, Global Integrity report and the European Commission report on corruption in Ireland. There’s a chapter in my corruption book on political donations in Ireland spanning 1980s-2000s. The submission distinguishes between donations to political parties and individuals from (a)corporations with government contracts, (b) corporations which are actively undergoing a tender process for the procurement of public funded contracts and (c) corporations which are government owned or partially government owned. It also examines multiple donations by the same individual, the role of third parties, the difficulties around accrual v cash receipts and the capacity of the Standards Commission.

Below is my Sunday Business Post column on the implications of the political finance.

Continue reading