Transitional Justice and Local Politics in Northern Ireland

The conflict in Northern Ireland, and the painstaking process towards a final resolution, is a key case for transitional justice.

Unlike many conflicts studied by TJ analysts in which issues of law and jurisprudence are frequently unclear, the Northern Ireland conflict was in theory governed by the European Convention on Human Rights throughout, giving rise to numerous important cases, notably Ireland v.UK on torture techniques used on internees.

The conflict resolution process has also been very much dependent on local processes and local attitudes, shaped by local decision-makers. As such, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 is a case study in the place transitional justice considerations actually take in practice alongside other concerns weighing on the minds of negotiators. Local attitudes to truth recovery and reconciliation processes point up the limitations of one-size-fits-all approaches to 'reconciliation'.

In the spring and summer of 2010, around a General Election, we are seeing moves towards local control of, and responsibility for, policing and justice issues, at a time of increased terrorist threat. This is combined with consultation over a new local Bill of Rights. The combination of these two key issues make the coming months perhaps the most important time in the Northern Ireland peace process since the 1998 negotiations. Substantive agreement will be required on controversial issues - and transitional justice considerations will play a central role.

Series Papers


1. Devolution of policing and justice - just one more step in the right direction 

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 by Ross Beaton

Devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly is likely to be achieved soon. But this is no magic bullet for political progress.


2. Cross-Party Consensus on Policing and Justice for Northern Ireland in the Context of the 2010 General Election 

Tue, 30 Mar 2010 by Paul Honey

In the light of the recent Hillsborough Agreement to devolve policing and justice to Stormont, a consensus is emerging in relation to the main parties' policies in this area.


3. A Truth Process for Northern Ireland? Exploring the Opposition 

Tue, 06 Jul 2010 by Cheryl Lawther

Finding consensus on how Northern Ireland should deal with its troubled past has proved intensely problematic. Understanding Unionist reservations will prove critical to progress.

On this page