This March we are excited to welcome Imagine Festival as they bring to The Crescent a whole host of events.
Over two decades on from the conclusion of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Ireland both countries are locked in a state of political crisis and disputes about the legacies of past conflict. This discussion will examine the challenges common to both regions and explore how power sharing and government arrangements could be enhanced. Leo Green is a researcher at Ulster University studying the outworking of powersharing in both Northern Ireland and Bosnia & Herzegovina. He served as a Special Advisor to the Health Minister in the first NI Executive and, subsequently, as a Sinn Féin party political director at Stormont. He was involved in all the various inter-party political negotiations in Northern Ireland from 1996 until his retirement from party politics in 2013. He is no longer affiliated to any political party. He is also a former IRA hunger-striker.
Whereas the agreements that spawned the realisation of peace in both regions – the Dayton Peace Accords (1995) and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (1998) – are routinely, and justifiably, eulogised for their role in facilitating an end to what were previously regarded as intractable conflicts, questions remain regarding the capacity of their respective prescriptions for power-sharing government to effect progressive social change. Although the historical context within which both conflicts took place, along with the circumstances within which they were concluded, differ greatly, the outworkings of the respective peace agreements in both regions are strikingly similar. In positive terms, the respective agreements, it would appear, have provided a relatively solid foundation for a durable peace.
In negative terms, however, government performance in both countries continues to be paralysed by the constitutional battleground, related irreconcilable political goals, and endless disputes about how best to address legacy issues from the respective conflicts. Unsurprisingly therefore, both countries are beset with dysfunctional government, an entrenchment rather than a softening of communal division and little prospect of meaningful transformative change. The net effect in both countries represents something of a paradoxical peace, with power-sharing’s biggest failure – the lack of rapprochement, between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland, and Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina – presenting as the most compelling argument for its continuance. This discussion will be introduced by Dawn Purvis and moderated by Professor Paul Arthur.
In association with the John and Pat Hume Foundation.