This article supports interpretations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 as a significant factor contributing to the development of the Northern Ireland peace process. However, it also emphasises a certain serendipity in the Agreement's effect on northern nationalist, and more specifically republican, politics in the region. In particular, it stresses that a specific interpretation of the Agreement promoted by the Social Democratic and Labour Party inspired a dialogue with republicanism, encouraging an ongoing reappraisal within the latter about the nature of Britain's role in Northern Ireland. This, the article argues, reinforced the movement towards a more political approach that republicans had begun in the 1980s, and encouraged their eventual embrace of a constitutional strategy in the 1990s. However, in advancing this argument, the article notes that such an outcome was far from the minds of the British and Irish officials who negotiated the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Agreement was intended to marginalise rather than accommodate republicans. Despite this, it provided an inadvertent incentive to draw militant republicanism into the democratic process in Northern Ireland.
Bibliographical noteSpecial Issue: Breaking patterns of conflict in Northern Ireland: the British and Irish states
- nationalism, republicanism, alienation, peace process