Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the image projected of Northern Ireland in the mainstream media is frequently that of a newly prosperous, modern, post-conflict society - a rare example of a successful peace process. Promoted as a great place to live and work, the garden seemed to be getting rosier by the day, that is until the Stormont Assembly collapsed in 2017.
Written to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the GFA, this book argues that the seeds of recent problems were sown in the 1998 agreement. The fiasco of a Renewable Heating Incentive that overpaid participants, the lingering whiff of corruption, communities in crisis and growing poverty are all symptoms of the inherent failings of the supposed settlement.
Current difficulties are more than teething problems arising from the transition from war to peace and neo-liberalism; they're the first instalment of a deeper crisis in a northern Irish state and society, which has never properly addressed the corrosive nature of sectarianism. Rather than ridding Northern Ireland of sectarianism, neo-liberalism, operating in the absence of armed conflict, has been able to accommodate and, in some instances, create a new form of sectarianism.
The GFA has led to a profound democratic deficit. This book focuses on the nature of the North's new sectarian political class who are the principal beneficiaries of the GFA, but attention is also drawn to the labour movement, the plight of precarious and migrant workers, and the undermining of third sector autonomy. Behind the latter is the continuing suffering within communities still impacted by the long period of armed conflict and the evolution of republicanism and Unionism-Loyalism.