Collection launched: 17 Jan 2018April 2018 will see the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, the central protections of which are currently under threat from the Brexit negotiations, special elections and the RHI Scandal. This special collection examines the impact and legacy of this Agreement on social, political and cultural life in Northern Ireland. The Agreement has proven strangely resilient. It has suffered many challenges, from inside and out, for the last 20 years but at the time of writing remains enshrined in UK and Irish law.
Culturally, engagements with the agreement itself have been rare, as artists prefer instead to seek out depictions of a ‘post’-Peace Process society or to excavate the past for their subject matter. Some writers have found themselves freed from the subject matter of the troubles, and this has led to a rise in genre fiction. There has also been a relative explosion of visual art, drama, poetry and plays by women and people who identify as LGBTQ. However, the place of race and disability in this ‘new’ Northern Ireland has not been widely explored in culture or scholarship, and the editors would particularly appreciate critical essays on this topic. The aim of this OLH Special Collection is to draw out those perspectives which were not widely heard during the Agreement negotiations or subsequent responses.
For many outside Northern Ireland, the Agreement is framed as a ‘bookend’ to the conflict, a neatly wrapped peace accord ending the violence. This false bill of goods allows for the conflict to be pitched as the ideal model for ‘talking to terrorists’ rather than acknowledging the Agreement as one of many on the path to peace. Existing volumes on peace-building often prioritise an economic model of “peace dividends”. In political science, the concepts of peace and prosperity are held to be mutually reinforcing. The reality, however, is somewhat different. Those on the margins of society – often due to class, gender and race – are obscured by the growing expectation that international economic aid is an essential underpinning for peace processes. As Colin Graham has argued in relation to the gulf between the agreement and the people it putatively represents, it sets in train a means for ‘the already marginalised to become more marginal still’.
By returning to the negotiations for peace this special issue seeks to redress this balance – exploring how the peace process evolved to create a document that has occluded much of Northern Ireland, while also giving voice to those silenced by the process.
Articles were invited that addressed a range of approaches, including: the social, cultural and political legacy of the Agreement; new perspectives on the politics of 1998 and beyond; the consequences of the Agreement from different perspectives e.g. gender, race, sexuality and disability; how literature and culture have changed in Northern Ireland in the past 20 years; decommissioning and paramilitarism; Brexit, borders and renegotiations; language (Irish and/or Ulster Scots); legal ramifications of the Agreement; representations of the Agreement, Peace Process or ‘post’-conflict moment in the arts (broadly defined); perspectives on the Agreement from within and without Northern Ireland; and the impact of peace-building initiatives and reconciliation organisations.
Edited by Dr Caroline Magennis (University of Salford), Dr George Legg (King’s College London) and Dr Maggie Scull (King’s College London).
Featured image "Beacon of Hope" by Andy Scott shared under a CC BY-SA license.