The bumpy road to peace

Ryan Loew

While violence has calmed, moves to end conflict in Northern Ireland have stumbled

On one of his several trips to Ireland, Mark Rubin, director of the Center of the International and Comparative Programs at Kent State, decided to drive the scenic country roads to Northern Ireland.

He wanted to experience crossing the border between two countries that have been at odds for years, often characterized by violence and political turmoil known as “the Troubles.”

“You see this happening a lot of places — blood feuds that continue on and on for centuries,” Rubin said. “But people realize ‘this is not my fight, I want to live in peace.’”

But the road to peace in Northern Ireland has been anything but scenic.

While the bloodshed in Northern Ireland has decreased from the hotbed of violence throughout the 1990s, relations between Ireland, its northern counterpart and Great Britain have remained rife with setbacks.

Recently the Irish Republican Army, an outlawed private army in British-controlled Northern Ireland, has been accused of mounting the world’s largest cash theft — stealing the equivalent of $50 million from a Belfast bank last December, according to

Another stumbling block to peace occurred in January when the IRA was blamed for the murder of Robert McCartney, who was beaten and stabbed to death in Belfast.

Regardless of recent tumult, the condition in Northern Ireland has improved.

“It’s not as in your face as the media portrays it to be,” said Elaine Laps, senior public relations major. “The streets aren’t war torn.”

But the height of the troubles was a time of car-bombing and other violence between Catholics and Protestants.

Laps, who grew up in Dairy, Northern Ireland, witnessed violence first hand. While at work one day, she said, she witnessed a riot in the street between Republicans and Unionists.

“It was a bit surreal watching it, but I felt safe,” Laps said. “It was all teenagers, hooligans.”

The violence in her country was few and far between, Laps said, and Rubin agreed.

“It’s pretty low profile, and people are working towards a final settlement,” Rubin said.

One major problem, he said, is that the IRA won’t disarm.

Last month the IRA withdrew any offer to disarm, reported, and rejected any British and Irish government claims that the group was committing crimes and worsening the stalemate. The group did, however, pledge to stick to a 1997 cease-fire.

British and Irish officials called the IRA’s refusal to decommission its weapons a setback to peace.

Despite previous violence and current roadblocks, Rubin said, Northern Ireland is on track to peace.

“People just want peace,” Rubin said. “They’re tired of it.”

For a complete history of Northern Ireland and its conflict, go to

Contact administration reporter Ryan Loew at [email protected].