Tonge, Jonathan, McAuley, James W. and Shirlow, Peter (2007) New pluralism or old ideological certainties? Examining the extent of political change among republican and loyalist prisoners. In: Reviewing the Good Friday agreement: effects, impact and prospects, 27-28 June 2007, University of Wolverhampton. (Unpublished)

A central feature of the conflict-ending measures contained in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was the release of republican and loyalist measures. The prisoners were released as part of a political agreement which did not de-legitimise their ideological approach, but instead merely rejected their methodology. For the GFA to extend beyond mere conflict management however, some ideological convergence might be required.

Drawing upon extensive (60+) research interviews and group discussions with former prisoners, funded via a two year Leverhulme Trust award, this paper explores the extent to which republican and loyalist prisoners have altered their ideological perceptions as a result of the peace process and the GFA. Are views of the ‘other’ side still characterised by mutual incomprehension, or have the peace and political processes led to greater recognition of rival forces? Is long-term reconciliation between two different armed traditions possible as a consequence of the diminution of ideological division between republican and loyalist former combatants?

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