By Adrian Little (auth.)
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Extra info for Democracy and Northern Ireland: Beyond the Liberal Paradigm?
Explaining the Belfast Agreement 31 Conclusion: the paradox of the Belfast Agreement A positive interpretation of the Belfast Agreement is provided by Wilford, who contends that ‘[b]olstered by a new regime of human rights and a commitment to a culture of equal opportunity, it has something for (nearly) everyone. Steeped in a pluralist, inclusive philosophy, the Agreement represented an imaginative attempt to move from a condition of zero-sum to positive-sum politics’ (Wilford 2001b: 121). Certainly the Agreement promised pluralism and inclusivity but much of this was aspirational rhetoric rather than ﬁrm commitment.
The point is, then, that all of these matters are issues for political negotiation and resolution (or otherwise). They are not free-ﬂoating moral principles agreed by the protagonists that have established a ﬁrm basis upon which to ‘construct’ political justice. Summarising Rawls In his later work Rawls has presented political liberalism as practical and political rather than metaphysical.
It assumes that political opponents and their views are entrenched and are incapable of development towards a less conﬂictual order. This is the ‘realism’ that Dixon alludes to in the self-understanding of the consociationalist. However, the existence of antagonism cannot be explained solely in terms of one over-arching dichotomous conﬂict. The nature of antagonism in Northern Ireland is multi-layered and is contingent upon the protagonists and the issues of division in different local contexts.