Peace in Northern Ireland relied on a flawed power-sharing deal that set sectarian divisions in stone.
LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland — IT is widely assumed that the Northern Ireland conflict was settled in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The war was over and the good guys had won.
Many Americans may even derive satisfaction from the role played by American presidents and political grandees — notably, President Clinton’s point man, George J. Mitchell, who presided over the negotiations leading to the agreement.
Yet the deal delivered by Senator Mitchell contained the seeds of its own destruction. In effect, the Good Friday Agreement assigned every person in Northern Ireland to either the unionist or nationalist camp, and the decision-making institutions it created, the Northern Ireland Assembly and its accompanying Executive, were designed to be balanced between the two camps. The plan was not to eliminate sectarianism, but to manage its manifestations…