The problem of how to deal with weapons held by paramilitary groups looms large over recent Northern Irish history. It delayed power-sharing for nine years after the 1998 Agreement and contributed to seismic change in the political landscape, but existing research has failed to adequately account for decommissioning's massive political impact. This article addresses this topic. It probes how the main parties handled the issue of decommissioning after 1998 and how that issue, in turn, affected the parties and party system. A theme throughout is how the parties' contrasting approaches to decommissioning reflected their divergent perspectives on one of the peace process's central, and most controversial, structural features: the inclusion of paramilitary-linked parties. This theme is taken up more directly in the concluding discussion which strives, with the aid of some of the theoretical literature, to tie together the threads from the main analysis and explains why decommissioning had such a dramatic impact on peace implementation in Northern Ireland.
|Journal||Contemporary British History|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2010|