The purpose of this paper is to examine the implications of the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement (GFA) through the lens of sport, particularly football, and with reference to theoretical literature on peace-making processes.
The paper is structured in such a way as to review theoretical literature, to consider the nature of the Northern Ireland problem and its implications for sport, to critique the current settlement and to demonstrate its failings using sport as an exemplar. The methods used are a critical review of relevant literature combined with reflections on the author's own involvement in sport and community relations.
The paper argues that the GFA has resulted in a consociational “solution” to the Northern Ireland problem. The example of sport, and especially the standing of the Northern Ireland football team, indicates that such a settlement fails to address the central problem of two divided communities with different political aspirations and attitudes towards national identity.
The analysis is limited to the extent that it adopts an essentially top down approach. The findings deserve to be confirmed (or indeed refuted) at some future point by a gathering data from football fans and others. However, the implications are that the terms of the GFA should be revisited in the light of evidence of the failings of the current settlement not only as found in this paper but based on recent political developments.
The Irish Football Association has to address the perception that appears prevalent amongst some Catholic players that they are not wanted by the national association. Politicians need to renew their efforts to create greater mutual understanding instead of fooling themselves that so long as they can talk to each other, the communities they represent will remain peaceful.
I doubt if any academic author has had the same degree of involvement in relation to the role of sport in the Northern Ireland peace process. What gives the paper its particular value, however, is the fact that it is probably unique in looking at sport in Northern Ireland with specific reference to political science peace-making literature.
Bairner, A. (2013), "Sport, the Northern Ireland peace process, and the politics of identity", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 220-229. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-01-2013-0001Download as .RIS
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