A short tale of two peace agreements

Comparing the conflict in the north of Ireland (late 1960’s – 1998 with the conflict in Donbass (2014 – early 2022):*

In the north of Ireland, the conflict lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to 1998.

More than 3,500 people were killed, of whom 52% were civilians, 32% were members of the British security forces and 16% were members of paramilitary groups. Republican paramilitaries were responsible for some 60% of the deaths, loyalists 30% and security forces 10%.

The area of the north of Ireland is 14,130 km2 and the population around 1.9 million.

At the end of 1993, the Joint Declaration on Peace, more commonly known as the Downing Street Declaration (between the Irish and British governments) was published. In 1994, the process of achieving peace continued. The Good Friday Agreement was reached in 1998. In between, various initiatives were developed — among them the Mitchell Principles and The Framework Documents – A Framework for Accountable Government In Northern Ireland.

The US government got directly involved and sent a former US senator, George Mitchell, to oversee the process. US President Bill Clinton put his weight behind the process.

The outcome of all this attention to developing the peace process was that any participating party to the process (or others outside the process) who tried to scuttle or otherwise block the process was outed and attacked in no uncertain terms. This process was going to be made an agreement and that was all that was to it. And, that is what happened. It could not be allowed to fail and has been variously celebrated and touted as an indispensable example of diplomacy by all and sundry, whether warmonger or peace activist, ever since.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Donbass lasted from 2014 to early 2022. That war cost more than 14,000 lives on both sides as of February 24, 2022, including more than 3,100 civilian deaths. Most of those deaths occurred on the Donbass side.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) examined the civilian related casualties from 14 April 2014 to 31 December 2021. It recorded a total of 3,106 conflict-related civilian deaths (1,852 men, 1,072 women, 102 boys, 50 girls, and 30 adults whose sex is unknown). Taking into account the 298 deaths on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014, the total death toll of the conflict on civilians has reached at least 3,404. The number of injured civilians is estimated to exceed 7,000.

The OHCHR estimated the total number of conflict-related casualties in Ukraine from 14 April 2014 to 31 December 2021 to be 51,000 to 54,000. Of those, 14,200 to 14,400 were killed.

The area of Donbass is 26,517 km2 and the population just over 4 million.

The peace process related to Donbass involved the Minsk Protocol, 2014 and Minsk 2, 2015. This process was made up of the Minsk Protocol, drafted in 2014 by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, consisting of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), with mediation by the leaders of France and Germany. Following the complete failure of that protocol, at a summit in Minsk on 11 February 2015, the leaders of UkraineRussiaFrance, and Germany agreed to a package of measures to stop the war in Donbass; this package became known as Minsk II.

In Ireland, the comparison between the attention given to the loss of life and the peace processes is stark. While the Minsk Protocol/Minsk 2 agreements were not implemented (for whatever reasons) this did not appear to be of any interest to the Irish media who had been fully behind the Good Friday Agreement. Nor did it upset the vast majority of politicians with the honourable exception of Members of the European Parliament, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.

Even the sanctity of life (an issue that the Irish media had so warmly and properly embraced in the north of Ireland), did not interest them in relation to the Donbass/Ukraine conflict. Irish Lives Mattered! Even British Soldiers Lives Mattered! But, not the lives of people in Donbass. Not even the lives of Ukranian soldiers killed in the conflict mattered. That is, until February, 2022 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Suddenly, the lives of Ukranian soldiers mattered. Now everything mattered! Wall to wall coverage (propaganda) on every front. But, let’s not go there.

The argument is that the contrast between the reaction of politicians and the media to the death of people in the north of Ireland and the death of people in Donbass and Ukraine up to February, 2022 stinks of duplicity, hypocrisy and blind observance to anything and everything even vaguely anti-Russian.

In the Ireland of today, the Ireland of this almost sacred Good Friday Agreement, anyone who calls for peace in Ukraine is blocked out of the media or worse, makes the headlines vilified as uncaring monsters, Putin apologists etc etc etc. Those calling for peace are brutes and those calling for more weapons etc for Ukraine are deep thinkers. Incredible.

While the Wild West continues its never-ending project to subjugate the rest of the world, another world is emerging. Let us hope that the emerging alternative actually becomes an alternative.

* This is not intended to be a comprehensive history or description of the two conflicts. The background information is intended to be a backdrop to the fate of both processes.

Declan McKenna is a solidarity activist living in Donegal, Ireland. He can be reached at dmck@outlook.ie Read other articles by Declan.