Reconciliation and human rights in Northern Ireland: A false dichotomy?

Maggie Beirne, Colin Knox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Peace building interventions in Northern Ireland have attracted at least two approaches-those which advocate from a human rights-based perspective, and others which promote community relations and reconciliation as a methodology to build and consolidate peace. These interventions have been seen by many practitioners as competing and mutually exclusive. Broadly expressed, human rights practitioners described their work as primarily about challenging governments; it focuses on issues of accountability; it relies on the law and legally imposed frameworks; it is a mixture of 'soft' and 'hard' law; it has, for some human rights practitioners, a confused stance regarding the overlap between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other; and it relies greatly on international concepts, standards, and campaigning. Exponents of reconciliation, on the other hand, argued that their work is primarily about bottom-up human dynamics and relationship-building; the creation of trust as a prerequisite to working together and breaking down barriers; and, the importance of processes as much or more than the eventual product (on the 'how' as much as, or at least before, the 'what'). Drawing on primary qualitative data from activists in both 'camps', this article will evaluate if these approaches represent a false dichotomy which fails to acknowledge potential synergies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-50
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • conflict
  • peace
  • reconciliation
  • transitional justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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