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Unpublished Paper
The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and Power Sharing in a Divided Society
  • Allan Leonard, University College Dublin

The government of Northern Ireland from 1920 to 1972 represented a one-party government, or more appropriately, a segmental majority of unionism; Nationalist parties were perpetually unable to, as well as restricted from, achieving control of government. Political processes since then have been to compel Unionists to share power with others. There is more than one way to apply power sharing, with consociational (Lijphart 1977) or integrative (Horowitz 1985; 1991) elements. The result can be a more or less integrated society (Sisk 1996).

My thesis is that with the achievement of the 1998 Agreement, Alliance’s pursuit of a Northern Ireland-integrative power sharing approach has been critically undermined. There are several factors to consider. First, Alliance’s application of a historical “third tradition” in Ireland did not address the legitimacy of a Northern Ireland regime. Second, consequently, its belief in serving as a “centre” role within Northern Ireland could not satisfy Northern nationalists, particularly when unionists were less than fully accommodating. Third, by supporting the concept of a “sufficient consensus” of unionists and nationalists, during the Multi-Party Talks (1996–1998), Alliance reduced whatever central political leverage it still had. I conclude with a suggestion that Alliance returns to its original policies on power sharing (presented at the Darlington Conference, 1972), with a more honest incorporation of nationalists’ perspective, and a better application of a “third tradition” -- civic pluralism.

  • Northern Ireland
Publication Date
Citation Information
Allan Leonard. "The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and Power Sharing in a Divided Society" (1999)
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