Professor Brandon Hamber presents "Tripping, falling, yapping: How the Northern Ireland peace process never reached its potential?"
The paper takes its title from a well-known Seamus Heaney poem, Follower. In the poem, the narrator relates how his father expertly ploughs a field while his son (presumably Heaney) makes a nuisance of himself "tripping, falling and yapping" while following his father. The poem ends with Heaney relating how the cycle repeats, and now the father stumbles behind his son, holding him back. This paper argues that despite many achievements, most notably a dramatic decrease in political deaths, the cycle of a stumbling peace process continues 25 years later. The ongoing cycle of division with all the hallmarks of the "tripping, falling, yapping" of the past remains. This is the result of multiple factors. These include the separation of institution-building from people-to-people peacebuilding, and the failure to change underlying social divisions and narratives. This has left the process continually underachieving and unprepared for social and political changes such as Brexit. The lessons from Northern Ireland, and what this means for the future and other peace processes, are discussed.