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Abandoning Historical Conflict?Former Political Prisoners and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland$
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Peter Shirlow, Jon Tonge, and James McAuley

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780719080111

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719080111.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Abandoning Historical Conflict?

Peter Shirlow

Jonathan Tonge

James McAuley

Catherine McGlynn

Manchester University Press

This book examines the extent to which the peace process in Northern Ireland developed as a result of the repudiation or maintenance of previously held views by those who had ‘fought the war’ and spent time in prison as a consequence of their actions. Most contemporary accounts of the peace and political processes were concentrated at elite level, examining the ability of political representatives to construct and maintain an inclusive set of compromises. The book argues that none of these compromises were sustainable without backing from ‘combatants’ in the conflict. As such, any account of the peace process which failed to take account of why so many former prisoners supported the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was incomplete. It also explores why conflict ended amid ideological continuity not change, with emphasis on loyalism and republicanism. Moreover, the book highlights the importance of prisoner releases in peace processes beyond Northern Ireland, and how the literature on demilitarisation, demobilisation, and reintegration has tended to overlook the centrality of prisoner releases to a successful peace process.

Keywords:   Northern Ireland, conflict, peace process, combatants, former prisoners, Good Friday Agreement, loyalism, republicanism, prisoner releases, reintegration

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