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  1. Comment on The peace process not such a good model after all
    on 13 January 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Robin Wilson appears to claim that proponents of consociationalism for Northern Ireland are driven by an ‘ancient hatreds’ analysis of conflict. This is nonsense. No serious theorist of consociationalism concerning contemporary Northern Ireland (e.g. McGarry and O’Leary, Wolff, Kerr) works from such a skewed logic. The ‘ancient hatreds’ thesis was developed by Robert Kaplan specifically to account for the outbreak of violence in the Balkans in the early 1990s. No leading thinker has tried to apply it to Northern Ireland. Robin Wilson seems to have fashioned a straw man argument here.

    The roots of consociationalism have a much more prosaic reality. In divided societies which use a majoritarian electoral system (i.e, first-past-the-post) the system of winners and losers mean that minority ethnic groups are de facto excluded from power. Northern Ireland is a perfect example of this. During the old Stormont regime, Northern Ireland was a one party Unionist state and Nationalist parties were de facto proscribed from power. In societies were minorities are practically barred from government it is often the case (though not exclusively so) that minorities feel aggrieved and this can be very destabilizing for the polity. What consociationalism does is to create a system which accommodates all salient groups based on their demographic size and electoral support. It is thus a fair system and has absolutely nothing do to with Wilson’s ‘ancient hatreds’ crap.

    Furthermore, why compare Northern Ireland to Bosnia in regards to lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process? The Dayton Accord was signed in 1995, three years before the GFA. More importantly, the GFA is substantially different and better than Dayton, since it is much more liberal. Consociationalism in Bosnia is highly illiberal. For instance, In the Bosnian Federation the three-member presidency requires one Muslim, one Croat, and one Serb representative, and each representative can veto legislation they believe undermines their own group’s vital interests. Nowhere in the GFA does it say that seats or political positions should be reserved to any ethnic group in advance of an election. If people stopped voting for nationalist or unionist parties in NI, then these parties would not have power in Stormont.

    This liberal system, therefore, is far superior to illiberal consociational arrangements in places like Bosnia, Lebanon and Burundi. For instance, in Lebanon, members of ethnic groups can only vote for parties within their own ‘ethnic’ segment. As such, Northern Ireland’s form of liberal power sharing is quite a good model for export.

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