New Labour‟s superintendence of the Northern Ireland peace process has re-opened debate about the party‟s stance on the “Irish question”. While some commentators hold the view that it remains ideologically wedded to the nationalist goal of Irish unity, it could be argued that Labour‟s Northern Ireland policy has been characterised by an ambivalent non-interventionist approach. The “peace strategy” pursued by Tony Blair‟s three administrations between 1997 and 2007 is examined in light of the political discourse articulated by key actors within New Labour itself. Moreover, the interpretive approach in British political science is utilised to illuminate key variables, such as ideology and values, driving the party‟s view on sovereignty in the United Kingdom more broadly. In applying this analytical framework the article explains how New Labour‟s policy towards Northern Ireland underwent significant adaptation under Blair‟s leadership and why it finally achieved its overarching objective of consigning the violent conflict to atrophy.

Author Bio(s)

Aaron Edwards is a Senior Lecturer in Defence and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He has published several articles on Northern Ireland in the journals Politics, Journal of Contemporary History, Peace Review, Irish Political Studies, and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. His recent books include Transforming the Peace Process in Northern Ireland: From Terrorism to Democratic Politics (Irish Academic Press, 2008, co-edited with Stephen Bloomer) and A History of the Northern Ireland Labour Party: Democratic Socialism and Sectarianism (Manchester University Press, 2009). Email: aaron_edwards@hotmail.com.


David Trimble, Irish unity, New Labour, Northern Ireland peace process, political discourse, Tony Blair, United Kingdom

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