This article explores the various ways in which the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has used Europe – as a source of financial aid, political support, ideas and inspiration – in its attempts to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict. In this, the piece considers the SDLP, not as a subject, but rather as an advocate of the Europeanization of the Northern Ireland problem. In particular, it looks at the role of John Hume, a founding member and later leader of the SDLP, who inculcated a strongly pro-European outlook within the party. In doing so, the article considers the success of Hume and the SDLP in their efforts to bring a European influence to bear on Northern Ireland, especially in relation to the peace process and the 1998 Agreement. However, it also looks at both the limitations of this influence, and the problems involved with the SDLP's pro-European approach, particularly since Hume's departure as party leader in 2001. In conclusion, the article suggests that the party may have been ‘over-Europeanized’, with its long-term focus on European issues and ideas now becoming electorally disadvantageous. In this way, the Europeanization of the Northern Ireland problem, and by extension the SDLP, has proven costly to the party.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations