Publications

Resistance, obstruction and agenda-setting: The hidden politics of the Northern Ireland settlement

ABSTRACT: This paper examines Ulster unionism’s responses to and its increased disaffection from political developments in Northern Ireland since the 1990s. I suggest that Ulster unionist politics—and, by way of extrapolation, Northern Irish politics—cannot be understood without taking into account the “soft” or “hidden” face of political power. I argue that this aspect of political dynamics has been under-researched and under-appreciated in Northern Ireland and outline an alternative narrative of the “peace process” as the product of resistance and agenda-setting activities. This changed perspective requires a re-conceptualisation of the role played by unionist politics, which are seen to embody a paradox of alienation and powerlessness operating alongside the effective prevention of specific British government and Irish nationalist policy proposals. I conclude with the suggestion that the “peace process” occurred largely despite rather than because of elite intervention.

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