Political Purgatory: The Battle to Save Stormont and the Play for a New Ireland


Brian Rowan

April 2021

Political Purgatory sets the three years from collapse to Covid-19 – and the breaking and making of Stormont – into a wider frame of building peace on top of conflict.


This is a book about political stasis; the purgatory that Stormont became, and the sins of that long standoff. The story begins in January 2017, with Martin McGuinness’s dramatic resignation as Deputy First Minister, and chronicles all the behind-the-scenes negotiations that ultimately resulted in the restoration of the Executive in January 2020, with the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement. Then, that new fight with a fearsome and unknowable foe: coronavirus.

Political Purgatory charts the three years from the collapse then restoration of the northern Executive to Covid-19 in the wider frame of building peace after conflict, and it turns the next corner into the centenary of Northern Ireland and that louder call for Irish unity since Brexit, like a piece of heavy machinery on fragile ground, has left cracks across the Union.

Spanning several decades, some of the biggest names on the inside of Irish and British politics, including Gerry Adams, Naomi Long, Peter Robinson, Robin Swann, Julian Smith and Simon Coveney, help veteran journalist Brian Rowan turn the pages in what President Clinton has called the ‘long war for peace’.


Foreword by Julian Smith MP
Preface: Political Purgatory
Prologue: A cake with 100 candles – but how many more?

1 Resignation – the nuclear option
2 ‘Shadowy figures’ in the Stormont corridors
3 See you later, alligator
4 McGuinness – ‘part of the rage of his time’
5 A stage in the London lights – balance of power
6 Adams – the person least forgiven
7 Nearly fixed, but still broken – ‘keep your ears open’
8 Stormont breakfast – ‘tell me more’
9 No more road – election then agreement
10 ‘Project Dignity’ – politics and pandemic
11 Centenary and uncertainty – Union versus unity

Afterword: Hume – ‘his long war for peace’
Chronology: From ceasefires to peace

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Rowan is a journalist, author and broadcaster. He was the BBC security editor until 2005, and reported on the major developments in the transition from conflict to peace. He has written several books on that process, including Behind the Lines: Story of the IRA and Loyalist Ceasefires (1995), How the Peace Was Won (2008), and Unfinished Peace: Thoughts on Northern Ireland’s Unanswered Past (2015). He has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Journalist of the Year awards four times, including twice as specialist journalist.

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Weight 0.525 kg



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