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Human Rights as War by Other Means

Peace Politics in Northern Ireland

By Jennifer Curtis

Publication Year: 2014

Following the 1998 peace agreement in Northern Ireland, political violence has dramatically declined and the region has been promoted as a model for peacemaking. Human rights discourse has played an ongoing role in the process but not simply as the means to promote peace. The language can also become a weapon as it is appropriated and adapted by different interest groups to pursue social, economic, and political objectives. Indeed, as violence still periodically breaks out and some ethnocommunal and class-based divisions have deepened, it is clear that the progression from human rights violations to human rights protections is neither inevitable nor smooth.

Human Rights as War by Other Means traces the use of rights discourse in Northern Ireland's politics from the local civil rights campaigns of the 1960s to present-day activism for truth recovery and LGBT equality. Combining firsthand ethnographic reportage with historical research, Jennifer Curtis analyzes how rights discourse came to permeate grassroots politics and activism, how it transformed those politics, and how rights discourse was in turn transformed. This ethnographic history foregrounds the stories of ordinary people in Northern Ireland who embraced different rights politics and laws to conduct, conclude, and, in some ways, continue the conflict—a complex portrait that challenges the dominant postconflict narrative of political and social abuses vanquished by a collective commitment to human rights. As Curtis demonstrates, failure to critique the appropriation of rights discourse in the peace process perpetuates perilous conditions for a fragile peace and generates flawed prescriptions for other conflicts.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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Chronology

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pp. xi-xiv

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Chapter 1. Whose Rights and Whose Peace?

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pp. 1-36

“We have peace,” declared “Séamus,” a taxi driver in national west Belfast. “And they can have their culture, or whatever they want to call it, as long as it’s not in my face. And I can have mine, and I hope I’m not in their face.”1 Séamus was explaining to me his attitude toward loyalists and the new, separate...

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Chapter 2. The Usual Suspects

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pp. 37-68

At the bottom of the Falls Road, in the Divis area of west Belfast, one wall has become a dedicated site for murals. It is called the “international wall,” and the murals there draw connections between Northern Ireland and other countries. Periodically, the murals are changed; exemplary paintings have...

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Chapter 3. Peace Sells—Who’s Buying?

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pp. 69-100

During my fieldwork in west Belfast, research participants frequently described triumphs over state agencies, especially welfare bureaucracies. “Sarah,” a community activist from the Shankill, recounted a particularly funny story about “doing the double” (working in the informal economy...

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Chapter 4. The Politics We Deserve

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pp. 101-132

“Do you think we get the politics we deserve?” a lawyer asked me over coffee on a gray morning in August 2011. She leaned back and answered her question before I could reply: “I do. It’s nonsense to say that political representatives here don’t speak for people—they do it well enough to keep getting...

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Chapter 5. No Justice, No Peace

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pp. 133-167

“At least I wasn’t a traitor!” bellowed a Democratic Unionist Party councillor in the September 1997 Belfast City Council meeting. He was enraged that Progressive Unionist Party councillors David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson did not vote to commemorate the Bloody Friday bombings of 1972. As if they...

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Chapter 6. “Love Is a Human Right”

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pp. 168-200

“Over the years, the way she has treated my community, I have opposed her at every turn. I can’t tell you the number of waiters I’ve told to spit in her food.” “Daniel,” a young civil servant from a nationalist background, was relaxing with a pint as we enjoyed late evening sunshine in May 2010. Like...

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Chapter 7. Ethnopolitics and Human Rights

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pp. 201-216

In the twenty-first century, Northern Ireland’s inclusive peace process was attenuated; many negotiations about the Good Friday Agreement’s (GFA) implementation took place between the British government and one or two political parties. Senior British advisers such as Jonathan Powell (2008) frame...

Notes

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pp. 217-230

Glossary

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pp. 231-244

Bibliography

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pp. 245-272

Index

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pp. 273-284

Acknowledgments

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pp. 285-


E-ISBN-13: 9780812209877
E-ISBN-10: 0812209877
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246193

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 2 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights

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Subject Headings

  • Human rights -- Political aspects -- Northern Ireland.
  • Political violence -- Northern Ireland.
  • Social conflict -- Northern Ireland.
  • Peace-building -- Northern Ireland.
  • Northern Ireland -- Ethnic relations -- Political aspects.
  • Northern Ireland -- Politics and government -- 1994-.
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