Profiting from the Troubles : How a profit is being made on the Troubles and what impact it has on the peace process in Northern Ireland

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2013-10
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en
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As a litany of bomb explosions, shootings, marches, and military brutality in a seemingly intractable conflict situation. That is how people often looked at the Troubles in Northern Ireland. When in 1998, after almost thirty years of violence the Good Friday Agreement was finally signed it came as a surprise to many. Fifteen years after this peace treaty Northern Ireland is often seen as a post-conflict society. The peace process is considered exemplary to other peace processes around the world. However, the progress that has been made to resolve the conflict should not hide the fact that Northern Ireland is still a segregated society with a high level of violence and political conflict. In the context of this thesis political conflict has to be seen as a predominantly non-violent conflict between the two antagonist communities that is taking place in parliament but also in public spheres such as education, church, media and tourism. Occasionally violence does erupt again. The January 2013 flag riots and the July 2013 parade riots prove that the violent aspects of the Troubles are not merely a thing of the past. Spatially the Troubles are reflected in the many walls and borders that continue to separate nationalist neighborhoods from unionist neighborhoods. Hence, the Troubles still play a role in everyday life. I have had many conversations with people in Belfast and in those conversations many claim that the Troubles are still a burden on the economy and have a negative impact on their work, freedom of movement and on safety and security in society. Northern Irish identity and society have been marked by the conflict and this mark will not easily fade. In this thesis, I focus on the economic dimensions of the conflict. My central argument is that in various ways the conflict has been, and still is, economically beneficial to a number of actors in the region. I have done research on how certain actors are economically reliant on a continuation of the conflict, or use the legacy of the conflict for economic purposes. Concretely I will look at the role of tourism and the role of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. Peacebuilding is to be regarded as a process that addresses the structural issues and the long-term relationships between conflicting parties. In doing so it tries to overcome the contradictions that lie at the root of the conflict (Galtung, 1996, p. 112). Subsequently, I will ask the question how the financial benefits made through the use of the Troubles for economic purposes influence the peace process. I will describe how economic development through tourism can help Northern Ireland move forward. Simultaneously I will investigate if conflict tourism can hamper peacebuilding by reaffirming and exploiting a segregated identity. In a similar way, I will try to assess what impact the growth of a peacebuilding sector has had the peace process. This thesis will make clear how on the one hand conflict tourism and peacebuilding projects have brought Northern Ireland wealth, jobs, visitors, knowledge and development. On the other hand, I will show how financial gains serve as an incentive for some actors to continue the conflict, or to use contested conflict heritage to make money. Thus I have come up with the following research question: Do actors in the tourism business and in the peacebuilding sector economically profit from the legacy and/or continuation of the conflict? And how does that influence the peace process? Before presenting an overview of the conflict, and discussing the scientific and societal relevance of the project, it is necessary to elaborate on some of the key terms I will use in this thesis and to provide a historical overview of the Northern Irish conflict.
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Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen