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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 2 .

A Farewell to Arms? From 'long war' to long peace in Northern Ireland
Michael Cox, Adrian Guelke, and Fiona Stephen (eds.)

Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000
360pp. Index Pb.: 16.99; ISBN 0-7190-5797-3

This excellent book presents a very thorough account of the Northern Ireland peace process and the events leading up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It questions why the peace process evolved when it did and outlines possible scenarios and problems for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The 21 authors; academics, politicians, policymakers, and journalists provide differing perspectives on some highly complex topics, and present them in an eminently readable text. The chapters in A Farewell to Arms are divided into five broad categories. The volume begins with a brief outline of the historical background to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The second section focuses on the Good Friday Agreement itself with Bew's chapter exploring some of the problems of attempting to theorise about what the Agreement is and how is came about. This part also offers an analysis of the role of the SDLP and the divided Unionists in helping to formulate the Agreement. This wide-ranging volume then concentrates on the crucial issues of decommissioning, prisoner releases, and policing in the new Northern Ireland. The fourth section moves away from the high politics of the negotiating table to the deeply personal tragedies and cost of the troubles. The issues key to peoples' everyday lives are addressed in sections on the human cost of the conflict, formulating a post-conflict economy, the role of women, and promoting tolerance through education. In a refreshing departure from traditional analysis of Northern Ireland as a unique internal political issue, the final section brings in the international dimension. These chapters question how both academics and policymakers can gain from studying other conflicts and peace processes and the worth of moving out of the immediate confines of Northern Ireland. This section introduces discussion of South Africa, the Middle East, and the Basque country as well as analysing the cross border dimension of the peace process.

The only draw back of A Farewell to Arms is that the reader is left with many unanswered questions because the authors attempt to cover so many different aspects of the Northern Ireland troubles and peace process. Whilst timely, this volume is about a still evolving and volatile process. It nevertheless provides an excellent background and a starting point which will prompt the reader to investigate particular themes in more detail. I would recommend this book.

Helen Morris

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