Colum McCann in the NYT:
As much as anything, the move toward devolution is a glimmer of hope for the rest of the world — if it can happen in Northern Ireland, it’s possible that it can happen anywhere. Palestine. Sri Lanka. Iraq.
As much as I might like to see peace and harmony in each of the places McCann mentions, I’m reluctant to agree.
Each situation is the product of different historical forces and conditions. Listing them portentously does not, alas, mean that they all form part of some grand historical narrative or process.
Consider the role of the United States in Northern Ireland, which is totally different to its role in Palestine and Iraq (I don’t know enough to comment on Sri Lanka). The US was in a place to support a Northern Ireland peace process as a relatively impartial broker, (and NI was a low-risk means of burnishing its image as a global peacemaker) but it has deep and probably inextricable strategic interests in the other two countries.
Parties might learn lessons from one situation and apply them to another, but there is no reason to believe that the lessons they learn would be the right ones to lead to peace. They could just as plausibly lead to more entrenched war and destruction. It seems far more useful to think about why the Northern Ireland story will not be repeated in these other places, and start changing things from there.