Stalled peace process leads to local trouble

April 11, 1997

The pick of the papers from the Political Studies Association conference in Ulster

Violent clashes at loyalist parades in Northern Ireland are likely to intensify as the divided communities accept political and constitutional deadlock in the peace process and shift the emphasis to parochial issues, new research suggests.

Chris Gilligan, a PhD student at Salford University's department of politics and contemporary history, argued at the PSA conference that despite a long tradition of Orange Order parades in Ulster, the marches have become a serious flashpoint only since the current peace process began in 1994.

He said: "The marches have been going on for years, but apart from serious incidents in 1988, they have only recently become a major source of conflict. Of course there are often specific reasons for the violence, but I believe it is part of the general shift from the political to the cultural."

Mr Gilligan argues that the latest attempt at a peace process involves a fundamental sacrifice by the republicans. "The republicans have more or less accepted that they are not going to achieve a united Ireland through a military strategy so the chances of achieving their political and constitutional aims are diminishing.

"But at the same time, the issues giving rise to the conflict are not resolved. The peace process in general has tended to exclude ordinary citizens and they are becoming more apathetic. They have had to negotiate the problems themselves rather than look outside to political leaders. The constitutional issues have receded into the background while local issues dominate. The processions have become a displacement activity."

Mr Gilligan's paper, Marching Forwards or Backwards? Orange Parades and the Disenchantment with Politics in Northern Ireland, concludes that "the ideological and physical battles between those who advocate the primacy of freedom of assembly and those who advocate the primacy of the principle of consent disguise an underlying agreement on the need for greater regulation of human conduct".

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