In this timely new book Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, explores a number of crucial questions in the immediate aftermath of PIRA decommissioning and attempts to re-activate the political process in Northern Ireland. Was it inevitable that Northern Ireland should undergo some three decades of costly violence? What, in truth, were those costs? Might the descent into catastrophe have been delayed or even averted if the main ‘actors’ (defined as the parliament and government of the United Kingdom, the political parties and institutions operating within Northern Ireland since 1920, and the parties and institutions of the Irish Free State and Republic) had done things they ought to have done, or left undone things they ought not to have done? Are the ‘political process’ and the ‘peace process’ the same thing, and indeed how is ‘peace’ to be defined? The book places particular emphasis throughout on the continuing overriding responsibility of the parliament and government of the United Kingdom for the ‘peace, order and good government’ of a part of that Kingdom even when exercising devolved powers of government. It also illustrates the unwisdom and ungenerosity of much ‘Stormont’ policy, and explores the failure of the Free State and its successor to present itself as friend and suitor rather than threat. The book concludes by pointing out that, although mainstream terrorism has been throttled back, part of the cost has been the movement of electoral support away from moderation and towards the more militant wings of unionism and republicanism.
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