Constructive Ambiguity or Internal Self-Determination? Self-Determination, Minority Rights and the Belfast Agreement

Christine Bell, Kathleen Cavanaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This Essay examines the Belfast Agreement (or "Agreement") in the light of international law on self-determination and minority rights. Northern Ireland cannot be evaluated in a vacuum; already it is being suggested that the Northern Ireland peace process and the formula devised in the 1998 Belfast Agreement may serve as a model for other divided societies. Indeed, this possibility was raised by President Clinton during his September 1998 visit to Belfast and was reiterated by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on her more recent visit in December 1998. International law claims to address many of the issues central to ethnic conflict, preeminently self-determination, the legitimate basis for statehood, the exercise of state power, territorial integrity, and the cultural rights of groups and individuals. By comparing international law and the Belfast Agreement, this Essay examines whether the international instruments provide a useful measuring stick, or indeed whether the Belfast Agreement has anything to contribute to the current international debate on self-determination versus minority rights.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Pages (from-to)1345-1371
Number of pages26
JournalFordham International Law Journal
Volume22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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