We can only guess what was going through the minds of Martin McGuiness and Elizabeth Windsor as they shook hands in Belfast last week. Several commentators recognised the symbolism of a painful process of reconciliation. Lessons from Northern Ireland about the futility of violence need to be applied in other parts of the world, and in other areas of life.
The prospects of settlements in some of the most intractable situations in the world today, as well as in domestic political wrangles over the health service, education and more, depend upon a host of unseen actors, says Simon Barrow. They create the conditions for the more formal political mechanisms to make progress.