Women in Peace and Transition Processes: Northern Ireland (1996–1998)
The peace process in Northern Ireland from 1996–1998, culminating in the signature of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in April 1998, brought to an end more than 30 years of sectarian violence. Women’s groups succeeded in securing the participation of a dedicated women’s caucus— the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition—in the track one negotiations. Women successfully advocated for the inclusion of language and provisions in the final agreement on equal opportunity, women’s rights to equal political participation, social inclusion, reconciliation and the needs of victims of violence, integrated education and mixed housing, and for a Civic Forum to engage with a broad range of stakeholders on the implementation of the Agreement. Women were also included in official consultations, played a key role in the “yes” campaign that succeeded in ratifying the Agreement by referendum, and were involved in post-Agreement commissions.
Women’s influence on the negotiations was enabled by their communication and advocacy strategies and coalition-building efforts, which helped to earn them favor with the chairman of the talks and ultimately the Irish and UK governments, and by support from women from all community backgrounds. Their influence was constrained by the unfavorable attitude of other political parties and constraining attitudes regarding women’s socio-political role more generally, a lack of broad public buy-in, and the heterogeneity of women’s identities.