Twelve historians and social scientists from several different universities in Britain and Ireland came together recently for a workshop on the Stormont House Agreement. The aim was to consider the role of academics in dealing with the past and to make some recommendations on the kind of contribution they might make. I have pasted in the first few paragraphs from the report below. The full report is available online at http://irishhistoriansinbritain.org/ In the interests of disclosure I should say that I was one of those involved.
This report considers the contribution that historians and social scientists can make to the task of ‘dealing with the past’ in Northern Ireland. Specifically, it examines the role of academics as envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement from the perspective of experienced practitioners of the relevant disciplines.
The report is the outcome of a workshop held at Hertford College, Oxford on 19 October 2016.
Recognising the need for clearer information about the potential contribution of historical research to reconciliation in Northern Ireland, we have set out:
1. informed comments on the proposals in the Stormont House Agreement for (i) an Oral History Archive; (ii) a timeline and (iii) statistical analysis; and (iv) a report on themes and patterns;
2. ways of distinguishing between problems that historians and social scientists cannot solve and those matters of public concern where academic research and analysis can bring greater clarity and understanding;
3. recommendations on how to ensure that the overall process is ‘conducted with sensitivity and rigorous intellectual integrity, devoid of any political interference’.
Niall Ó Dochartaigh is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway. He is a founding convener of the Standing Group on Political Violence of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) and the Specialist Group on Peace and Conflict of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI). He has published extensively on the Northern Ireland conflict and on mediation, peace negotiations and territoriality. He is currently completing a monograph on the negotiating relationship between the British state and the IRA during the Northern Ireland conflict. Recent publications include:
Bosi, Lorenzo, Niall Ó Dochartaigh & Daniela Pisoiu (eds) (2015) Political Violence in Context: Time, Space and Milieu. Colchester: ECPR Press.
Ó Dochartaigh, Niall (2016) ‘Northern Ireland since 1920’. In Richard Bourke and Ian McBride (eds) Princeton History of Modern Ireland. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp.141-67.
Ó Dochartaigh, Niall (2015) ‘The Longest Negotiation: British Policy, IRA Strategy and the Making of the Northern Ireland Peace Settlement’. Political Studies, 63 (1), 202-220.