|Abstract as per original application
The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was signed in Belfast in April 1998 by the British and Irish governments as well as eight political parties in Northern Ireland. This historic event marks the end of the three-decade-long conflict known as “The Troubles” (1968-1998) fought chiefly among loyalist paramilitaries, nationalist paramilitaries and security forces, resulting in thousands of causalities including Catholic and Protestant civilians. The GFA also brought new institutions (most notably a new version of the power-sharing, “consociational” executive) and political commitments. With qualified and punctuated “success” (McGarry and O’Leary 2017), the GFA has heralded in a new era of relative peace and optimism quite unknown in the region torn by centuries of violence beginning with English colonialism and outliving successive waves of decolonization worldwide.
Yet despite the GFA’s historic significance and initial achievements, politics in Northern Ireland has yet to enter the stage of what political theorists call “stable peace” (Kacowicz et al. 2000) or “deep reconciliation” (He 2009). The challenges of imminent Brexit, the recent breakdown of the devolved Executive since early 2017 and the persistent post-GFA “low-intensity” sectarian violence (Balcells et al. 2015) are but some of the reminders of how precarious the peace in Northern Ireland still is, which remains standing in sharp contrast to a post-Reformation, postcolonial and – to a lesser extent – postnational Europe.
Beginning in 2018, that is, twenty years on since the signing of the GFA and twenty-five years since the publication of Brendan O’Leary and John McGarry’s celebrated book, The Politics of Antagonism: Understanding Northern Ireland (1993), the proposed three-year research project aims to critically assess the implementation of GFA as a constitutional framework within which various social and political actors employ different resources at their disposal to overcome past and present obstacles to political reconciliation. Adopting Colleen Murphy’s framework for evaluating processes of political reconciliation (2010), the research seeks to determine the level (or lack) of achievement in areas such as political trust and rule of law in the twenty-year period, and to answer whether the predominant political concepts of “antagonism” and “accommodation” (Lijphart 1968) suffice as conceptual opposites to measure the overall accomplishment of the Northern Ireland peace process thus far.
In terms of significance and output, aside from producing a number of peer-reviewed articles for high-impact journals, the project also aims to connect and contrast experiences in Northern Ireland and Hong Kong, where some fear a politics of antagonism is fast emerging.
《貝爾法斯特協議》（下稱《協議》）於一九九八年四月由英國政府、愛爾蘭政府及八個北愛爾蘭政黨簽署。 此歷史性協議標誌着一個長達三十年 （1968-1998）、主要涉及聯合、共和兩派準軍事部隊和英軍，並導致數以千計人數死亡（包括天主教和新教基督徒的北愛人民）的衝突之終結。
此外，《協議》亦帶來了新的政治制度和承諾，當中最為顯著的是一個新的協商民主行政機關。儘管《協議》的成功並不盡如人意 (McGarry and O’Leary 2017)，但它為北愛爾蘭開拓了一個相對和平和樂觀的新時代，這在當地由英國殖民統治拉開序幕的悠長暴力史上實屬罕見。
雖然《協議》具有相當歷史意義且取得初步成功，但北愛政治並未進入政治理論家所講的「穩定的和平」(Kacowicz et al. 2000) 或「深層次和解」(He 2009)。誠言，北愛的和平仍面對著不同的威脅，包括英國脫歐、近期的地方政府行政機關癱瘓丶以及後協議時期持續不斷的「低密度」派系暴力事件等 (Balcells et al. 2015) 。在和平問題上，北愛與後宗教改革丶後殖民主義和某程度上相對後愛國主義的歐洲仍存有強烈對比。
二〇一八年是《協議》簽署二十周年，亦是 B. O’Leary 及 J. McGarry 的名著《敵對政治：理解北愛爾蘭》出版廿五載之時，本研究計劃藉此契機，以三年為期，透過批判審視《協議》的實踐，看其作為地方憲制框架如何促進或阻礙社會和政治人士與團體運用自身的資源去克服過去與現在的政治和解障礙。
本研究計劃將參照 Colleen Murphy (2010) 的理論框架去評估北愛政治和解進程，尤其著眼於探討政治互信和法治重建等不同領域在過去二十年間的成果或不足，並嘗試回答「敵對」和「協調」等主流政治概念 (Lijphart 1968) 在二十多年後的今日是否足以作為兩極概念去評定北愛和平進程至今的整體成果。