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Politics and society in Northern Ireland over half a century

After three decades of violence, Northern Ireland has experienced unprecedented peace. It is now generally accepted that the peace accord which ended the Northern Ireland conflict, the 1998 Belfast Agreement, is an exemplar of this trend. This book examines the impact of the 1998 Agreement which halted the violence on the Northern Irish people. It covers changes in public opinion across all areas of society and politics, including elections, education, community relations and national identity. The surveys presented show that despite peace, Protestants and Catholics remain as deeply divided as ever. The book examines the development of the theory of consociationalism and how it has been woven into the intellectual debate about the nature of the Northern Ireland conflict. The role of religion in conflict transformation has emerged as an important issue in Northern Ireland. Ethnonationalism in Northern Ireland is fuelled by its multifaceted and complex nature. The constitutional position of Northern Ireland has been the topic of recurring debate since partition in 1920. The role of education in promoting social cohesion in post-conflict societies is often controversial. The book explores both the nature and extent of victimhood and the main perpetrators of the political violence. The key elements of a consociational approach include a grand coalition representing the main segments of society; proportionality in representation; community (segmental) autonomy; and mutual vetoes on key decisions. The main lesson of peace-making in Northern Ireland is that political reform has to be accompanied by social change across the society as a whole.

politics of some European countries, notably Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria (Lipset and Rokkan, 1967 ). However, it was also noted that in many of these countries, all of which were deeply divided on some combination of language, ethnicity or religion, institutional mechanisms had been put in place to manage the potential conflict these divisions generated. This gave rise to the theory of consociationalism, which

in Conflict to peace
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finding in studies of comparative politics is that cross-cutting cleavages within a society lead to moderation and compromise, while reinforcing cleavages lead to extremism and conflict. This conclusion, which is most frequently associated with Arend Lijphart’s book, Patterns of Democracy (1999), led to the development of the theory of consociationalism, by which fundamentally divided societies

in Conflict to peace