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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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Political and tactical change among former prisoners

Political and tactical change among former prisoners

(p.91) 5 Political and tactical change among former prisoners
Abandoning Historical Conflict?

Peter Shirlow

Jonathan Tonge

James McAuley

Catherine McGlynn

Manchester University Press

The contribution of paramilitary prisoners to conflict transformation remains a surprisingly under-stated aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process. Former prisoners have utilised the organisational capacity and structures of paramilitary groups and developed these as agents of conflict transformation. ‘Management systems’ and structures evidently mobilised to engage in violence were reoriented towards developing positive community roles in respect of restorative justice, opposition to violence and reducing sectarian tensions at interfaces. Concurrently, former prisoners and their representative groups have developed client relations with the local state, in the search for funding for local conflict transformation and reconciliation projects. These radical developments have been facilitated by dialogue initiated by former prisoners, on an inter-communal basis through meetings with former prisoners on the opposing side and via intra-group dialogue. A combination of tactical flexibility, societal change, perceptions of victory or continuing change and outworking of the longstanding recognition of the limited utility of violence contributed to ceasefires and concentration upon politics.

Keywords:   Northern Ireland, former prisoners, conflict transformation, peace process, paramilitary groups, restorative justice, intra-group dialogue, ceasefires, politics, societal change

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