The Northern Ireland conflict has been described as very similar to what is now occurring in Eastern Ukraine. The solution in the North may also be one that would work in The Ukraine.
Indeed Emeritus Professor Tom Hadden of Queens University in Belfast drew the comparison and the potential for a solution directly in a letter to the Guardian last year.
It is worth quoting in full:
“Thinking about the problems in Ukraine from Northern Ireland suggests some ideas. Both eastern Ukraine and Northern Ireland are ethnic frontier zones in which people with two distinct identities and allegiances have to live together.
After 50 years of fighting about rival claims to sovereignty over Northern Ireland, the British and Irish governments finally realized that it was better to recognize realities and negotiate a kind of shared status in which as an individual you could be British or Irish or both and in which power-sharing in regional government was required. And as in Northern Ireland the politics of the latest atrocity – Canary Wharf or MH17 (Plane shot down allegedly by separatists in Ukraine) – can get in the way of progress.
The Northern Ireland settlement is widely touted around the world as a way of dealing with divided identities and allegiances. Is it not time in Ukraine for a similar acceptance of realities – dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship for those who want it, negotiation of some kind of power-sharing regional government between the competing factions and recognition of a legitimate Russian interest in looking after Russian communities there?
The British government should be sharing its experience in these matters with others in the European Union. We should all be looking for ways to talk politics with the "terrorists" rather than imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting a military campaign to restore absolute Ukrainian sovereignty.
* Tom Hadden is an emeritus professor of law, of Queen's University, Belfast.