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Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

Negotiating Escalation in Northern Ireland

Political Violence
Social Movements
Niall O Dochartaigh
National University of Ireland, Galway
Niall O Dochartaigh
National University of Ireland, Galway

Rising violence in Northern Ireland from 1969 onward stimulated the proliferation of new communication channels between opposing forces and a widespread increase in contact across political divides. Security forces and politicians sought out contact with newly emerging political forces, even the most militant and radical of them. These early contacts show the extent of the shared interests between the British state and Irish Republicans and nationalists, demonstrating they were capable of pragmatic cooperation and coordination. The paper traces the interrelated development of escalation and negotiation between 1969 and 1971 as local compromise arrangements to preserve order came under increasing pressure from the broader political struggle to shape political institutions and frameworks. Short-term negotiated agreements aimed at maintaining order frequently acted as a catalyst for renewed escalation by provoking opposition from third parties, thereby clarifying the limits to conciliation. The paper explains the breakdown in relations and the failure of bargaining in terms of intra-organisational struggles. It argues that the limited shared interests evident in these early agreements remained important despite escalating violence and help to explain the ultimate emergence of a wider political settlement.
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