Assignment: Could Conflict Reemerge in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland has experienced dramatic demographic change since the end of The Troubles. For centuries Northern Ireland has been a region of Protestant supremacy, however Catholicism’s number of adherents is rapidly overtaking Protestantism’s.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement that led to 18 years of tense peace between Catholics and Protestants could unravel because a Catholic majority could lead to a renewed push for a united Ireland.

Any ceding of territory to the Republic will be difficult when population geography isn’t uniform. Many Protestants would be displaced

It could still be a decade or more for serious talks about the political status of Northern Ireland to emerge. The 1998 agreement stipulated shared executive powers between the denominations, making change somewhat reliant on their unlikely cooperation. Furthermore, both communities benefit from UK public service jobs and welfare favourable to the area. Moreover, repartitioning Northern Ireland would be extremely difficult in that border changes would be difficult to enforce without displacing many Protestants who don’t want to in the republic.

Even a simplified version of repartition is very hotchpotch. (Green – Catholic Majority, Orange – Protestant Majority)

My values are based around a consequentialist imperative to see the welfare of all people’s promoted as much as possible. A return to paramilitary violence would be terrible for Ireland,  socially and economically. Therefore, I believe that before the republican tide becomes overwhelmingly strong, politicians and community groups must work together to find a solution that can keep both groups from violence.

Possibilities could include building a national identity through cross-cultural institutions, devolving powers to subnational governments to calm republicans by allowing some self-determination, more cross-Ireland cooperation, or staggered border changes over time that would allow Protestants in Catholic majority areas to prepare for their area becoming part of the republic.

Possible subnational devolved bodies

A critical evaluation of this response by an Irishman may find that my view may be too optimistic. It could be that cultural divisions are so strong that nothing but violence and significant repartition of areas into the republic is possible.  

Possible devolved bodies with neutral Belfast



Jacobs, F. (2013). 619 – Is Ulster Doomed? Scenarios for Repartition. [online] Big Think. Available at: [Accessed 12 May 2016].


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