“The next class will simulate a top-level, BUT STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL AND UNOFFICIAL conference between key-parties in the Northern Ireland Conflict. The object of the conference, is to secure an agreement (but what agreement is for YOU to decide), that will end the recent armed violence in Northern Ireland.
Due to the political delicacy, the conference will take place in the neutral, non-fancy and discrete Elibank-house (pictured below) not far from Edinburgh, Scotland. The meeting will be chaired by the Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander (played by me), who was also a mediator in the peace process in Colombia between FARC and the Colombian Government.
You will represent the key-parties – both the officially recognized NI parties (DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP) as well as the key “illegal” paramilitary organizations (NIRA, UDA) and representatives of the UK, Ireland, and the EU. There will, besides these, be a hard internal part of both Sinn Fein and the DUP, and for agreements and victory conditions, these count as part of their main faction.
Earlier informal contacts have agreed to the following agenda-points to be on the table:
1) The decommissioning of arms by the respective parties
2)Self-defense and the role of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
3)The question of the future political representation of the parties and the future status of NI
TO WIN a case, a faction MUST make an agreement, that is announced at the table with at least 4 other factions (i.e. besides your own. All agreements MUST include at least 1 NI faction. The hards are part of their main faction). Several parties can win and “small” agreements can be made – for example on a partly decommissioning of weapons, specific types, political representation in specific areas etc.”
That’s right…Martin is back at it with another manual simulation, except this time, it’s not an active terrorist attack.
In my core course, we were presented with this assignment to prepare for after we were assigned to our factions.
Ellie, Sophie and I were assigned to the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which is an ultra-conservative, pro-Brexit, anti-abortion group. So…not really my cup of tea.
After lots of prep, the conference began.
A round-table discussion. Formal business attire. Two discussion points. Diplomacy rounds. Frustration. Elation.
All for one agreement by the end of the first day:
“All paramilitary groups will give up all explosives and then 50% of their remaining artillery with an agreement to give up 10% each year, non-compounding, with a five year target of being decommissioned. This will be completed on the basis of having majority or total Catholic PSNI officers at NIRA rallies, without trying to change the entire demographic of the PSNI. The EU will serve as the third-party investigator in this case.“
The NIRA, a militant group, agreeing to work towards total decommission was a huge success for my group, the DUP, who opposes the NIRA strongly. To reach this agreement unanimously at the roundtable was an accomplishment to say the least, so we left the first day of the conference feeling pretty good.
Day 2 was another story.
On this day, we discussed the future status of Northern Ireland. Now, you can imagine with groups representing the UK and the EU, the NIRA and the UDA, and the SDLP and the DUP, this agreement didn’t go so swimmingly.
The representative of the European Union had strong opinions regarding the border situation involved in Brexit, the representative of the Republic of Ireland voted in favor of a referendum that opposed our group, and both Sinn Fein and the NIRA rejected just about everything that our group agreed with.
The day was so frustrating that it resulted in one of my friends saying, and I quote, “I think I’m going to have an aneurysm”. I think all of us reached that point eventually.
After two days, a lot of conversations, one agreement and plenty of talk about borders, we aren’t even done. Martin proposed that we continue the exercise for another class, so…that might be happening.
Here’s to hoping that we can all reach another agreement in the future (maybe involving less yelling and eye-rolling).