Northern Ireland: From Imperial Asset to International Encumbrance


  • Tommy McKearney



The Northern Ireland story is more complex than the trite tale of orange versus green or two warring tribes. Current inhabitants are not settling ancient scores. Northern Ireland is the product of colonialism, the plantation of Ulster, machinations of a British state determined to retain a strategic outpost, 50 years of one party discriminatory government and the recent conflict. The Good Friday Agreement facilitated an end to armed conflict but is inherently flawed. Compounding the Stormont Assembly’s very limited ability to steer the economy is reluctance by the political parties to accept the rationale of the Agreement. Republicans are unhappy that Northern Ireland will remain British while unionists dislike the fact that republicans are partners in administration. Northern Ireland’s two leading parties, The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin (SF,) do not have the power (even if they wanted to use it) to address the social and economic issues affecting constituents’ lives. Northern Ireland is changing demographically while also facing economic challenges at a time when both England and Scotland are reassessing the nature of the Union.


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How to Cite

McKearney, T. (2016). Northern Ireland: From Imperial Asset to International Encumbrance. Journal of World-Systems Research, 22(1), 108–132.



Special Issue: Ireland in the World-System