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Consociation, Conditionality, and Commitment: Making Peace in Northern Ireland

  • Timothy J. White
Chapter
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)

Abstract

The key to achieving and keeping peace between historic groups is getting the parties to agree that maintaining the peace is more in their interest than resuming war. Consociationalism may be an institutional mechanism to allow historic rivals to share power but the exact nature of the power-sharing arrangements is less important than the political commitment to peace. Historically, consociational solutions to ethnic conflict have collapsed when the parties to the conflict no longer believe that the power-sharing arrangements associated with consociationalism are in their interest. Politicians involved in the Northern Ireland peace process devised a political settlement not based on seeking a consociational settlement but as a result of diplomatic exchanges and a search for a diplomatic settlement acceptable to all. Each of the parties sought to advance their own interests but came to appreciate the constraints that other parties faced in negotiating a settlement and implementing it. Not only did political elites learn to understand the contours of what was acceptable to leaders of other groups, but the peace process required the evolution of the identities of nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland which had been shaped by habit and had to be reformed to reconfigure inherited identities and interests.

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy J. White
    • 1
  1. 1.Xavier UniversityCincinnatiUSA

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