‘Walking wounded’: the peace process and other collateral Brexit damages

Sara Dybris McQuaid (Aarhus University)


The difficult transition from war to peace which has been ongoing in Northern Ireland at least since the peace agreement in 1998, is now further complicated by the indeterminate status of Brexit. Drawing on three conceptualizations from first aid, triage and psychology, the paper uses the metaphor of the ‘walking wounded’ to explore how Brexit interacts with the political culture of the staggering peace process in Northern Ireland. First, understanding ‘walking wounded’ as injured persons of relatively low priority allows us to discuss Northern Ireland as a place apart in the British body politic. Second, determining the ‘walking wounded’ by requesting those on the scene who may self-evacuate to do so immediately to a designated refuge, affords ways in which to understand the Republic of Ireland as a foreign policy actor and ongoing attempts to assign Northern Ireland a form of special status in relation to EU. Third, psychologizing the ‘walking wounded’ as those who long for closure but do not think they can find it, directs our attention to the plight of those who wanted an undiluted version of the nation state rather than the more multidirectional hybrid that is emerging into view as a result of the peace agreement and European cooperation.

Keywords: Northern Ireland, peace process, Brexit, unionism, nationalism, metaphor

Full text: OAJ_issue8_mcquaid (pdf, 236 KB).

DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2020s07

Biographical note 

Sara Dybris McQuaid (PhD) is Associate Professor in British and Irish History, Society and Culture at Aarhus University. She has published extensively on the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland and is a frequent commentator on British-Irish politics in Danish national media. She is currently researching dynamics of ‘multi-level memory governance’ and her most recent publications include the co-edited volume Ireland and the North (Peter Lang, 2019) and a special issue (with Sarah Gensburger) of the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society on ‘Administrations of Memory’ (2019).