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Adapting Consociation to Northern Ireland

ABSTRACT: This paper looks at the concept of consociational government (or the principle of fully-fledged power sharing) as it has evolved in recent comparative studies of the politics of divided societies. It describes the stages through which this concept moved to the centre of the political agenda in Northern Ireland, based on con`tributions by policy makers, academics, journalists and others. It reviews the difficult history of efforts to translate this principle into practice, noting the challenge posed by strong political cultural resistance to any principle other than the majoritarian, Westminister model. It looks at the stages by which powerful objections to consociation—in particular from unionists—gave way to a more matter-of-fact acceptance of this principle, and considers the factors which lay behind this transition.

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