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Conflict resolution in asymmetric and symmetric situations: Northern Ireland as a case study

McAuley, James W., McGlynn, Catherine and Tonge, Jonathan (2008) Conflict resolution in asymmetric and symmetric situations: Northern Ireland as a case study. Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, 1 (1). pp. 88-102. ISSN 1746-7594

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Conflicts between or within states can be characterized as symmetric or asymmetric by a number of objective criteria. Subjectively, however, there is often room for considerable ambiguity about the relative power of belligerents, with different perceptions associated with different political dynamics and outcomes. Here we suggest that creative use of this ambiguity can support a consensus that acknowledges that the belligerents have symmetric interests in the peace process, the peace settlement, and the rewards of peace. In the case of Northern Ireland, although the conflict there could be depicted as asymmetric, the peace process that led to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement only gained momentum when it began to draw on perceptions of symmetry between the factions. Crucial in this momentum towards settlement were the changing perceptions of those involved, particularly former combatants and their political representatives. Increased perceptions of symmetry allowed successive British and Irish governments to gain authority as legitimate mediators and guarantors. In turn, both republican and loyalist paramilitary organizations were able to promote the merits of a 'political' solution to their supporters. Finally, the development of a working political coalition among political representatives marked the transformation from asymmetric conflict to symmetric peace

Item Type: Article
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
School of Human and Health Sciences > Centre for Research in the Social Sciences
School of Human and Health Sciences > Academy for British and Irish Studies
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Depositing User: Sara Taylor
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2009 15:50
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 10:48


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