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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Through the Minefield
David McKittrick

(Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1999)
213pp. Index. Pb.: 11.99; ISBN 0-85640-652-x

Through the Minefield is the fourth collection of Independent's award-winning journalist David McKittrick's coverage of the Northern Ireland conflict. In this volume, McKittrick's key articles from the most recent period of the conflict's history is reprinted, covering events from the ending of the IRA cease-fire with the Canary Wharf-bomb in February 1996 to the murder of Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson in March 1999. Besides a chronology of the episode, McKittrick's reportage offers an excellent analysis of events and individuals in the peace process, such as three separate Drumcree crises; the death of Billy Wright and the loyalist violence that followed; the Good Friday agreement and the referendums; the Omagh bomb; and the new assembly.

Although Mckittrick's analysis of Northern Ireland is not framed in a theoretical context his informed journalism provides interesting insights on the dynamics of a peace process. For example, it illustrates how a change in one of the main parties of the conflict - that is when Tony Blair came to power after the election of a new British government in May 1997 - served to break the logjam which had followed the ending of the IRA cease-fire. Furthermore, McKittrick's articles portray the dual role of violence in a peace process. For example, the continuation of punishment beatings posed a threat to the peace process, McKittrick argues, since it "caused many to question the worth of the peace process and the value of the efforts to lead former paramilitaries on a journey away from bombs and into the democratic processes" (p. 199). At other times, violence functioned as a catalyst for peace, such as in an incident during the Drumcree crisis in 1998, in which three children of a Catholic mother were burnt to death by fire-bombs thrown by loyalist. However, the articles are not long enough to provide any extensive elaboration on the different issues. Instead its strength lies in that it catches the spirit of that certain time period, describing the hopes and the fears which are present simultaneously in a peace process. By and large, however, McKittrick's reportage facilitates the understanding of the Northern Ireland peace process in an incisive and accessible fashion.

Kristine Hoglund
University of Kent, Canterbury

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