Irish politics has been the subject of significant international attention in recent years, in terms of the Republic’s remarkable economic success and temporary status as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and as a consequence of the Northern Ireland peace process. In both contexts, international attention has been drawn to the politics and policies of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, with a view to discovering the lessons that might be learned from political and economic developments. Ironically, however, those living in either state on the island of Ireland remain largely ignorant of the other. For some time, in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, this was the politically ‘correct’ or ‘appropriate’ disposition to hold towards the other. Many ordinary citizens in the Republic, appalled by the violence in Northern Ireland and seeking to disassociate themselves as far as was possible from it, were proud to claim to know nothing about the politics in (if not of) Northern Ireland. Many ordinary citizens in Northern Ireland, in their desire to accentuate their separateness from the Republic, were equally proud to claim to know nothing about the politics there. To many interested and impartial outside observers, however, the logic of looking at both seems inescapable. That two states with a common origin and many similar influences, yet with divergent political and economic approaches yielding quite different policy styles and stances, have not been considered obvious cases for comparison is indeed remarkable.
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