The first major step in the peace process? Exploring the impact of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on Irish republican thinking

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Abstract

This article supports interpretations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 as a significant factor contributing towards 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 SDLP inspired a dialogue with republicanism, encouraging an ongoing re-appraisal 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBreaking Patterns of Conflict: Britain, Ireland and the Northern Ireland Question
EditorsJohn Coakley, Jennifer Todd
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Pages116-133
Edition1
ISBN (Print)9781138780286
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2014

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