Date of Award


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© 2017 Mosea Esaias. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Peace & Conflict Studies Department

First Advisor

Sa'ed Atshan


The conflict in Northern Ireland is best characterized as a political struggle between those who strive for the north of Ireland to be reunified with the south and those who wish for the north to remain within the United Kingdom. Unionists tend to be Protestant, identify with England and believe that Northern Ireland should remain within the United Kingdom. While Nationalists, or Republicans, tend to be Catholic, identify with Ireland and believe that Northern Ireland should be reunified with the south. Hundreds of years of competition between these two groups eventually culminated in a three-decade long war known colloquially as “The Troubles,” lasting from the late 1960s until the 1990s, and during which there were tens of thousands of casualties, both civilian and combatant. However, the passage of the 1998 “Belfast” Agreement is usually recognized as the conclusion of this period of sectarian violence. Among other developments, the Agreement established a system of consociational , or “power-sharing,” democracy in Northern Ireland. Prior to consociationalism, Northern Ireland was directly ruled by the United Kingdom from London. Previous scholars of the ongoing Northern Ireland peace process have focused on the role of grassroots movements, community dynamics and intergroup relationships. However, as a scholar exploring Northern Ireland from the outside-in, I am particularly interested in the role of government in peacebuilding, especially as it relates to the development of a sustainable peace. I believe that approaching Northern Ireland from this perspective lays the foundation for future comparative analysis, which may eventually allow us to derive generalizable lessons on democratization broadly, and power-sharing democracy specifically, as prescriptions to violence and conflict around the globe. Chapter I is dedicated to presenting a comprehensive albeit intentionally incomplete backstory to the situation in Northern Ireland. After reviewing Ireland’s sectarian history, it becomes clear why power-sharing democracy is the preferred solution to the region’s troubles: it brought a degree of cooperation between historically antagonistic groups, and an end to the levels of direct violence from the era directly preceding its implementation. In Part A of Chapter II, I explore the character and definition of power-sharing democracy based on consociational theory. In Part B I challenge the effectiveness of the Belfast Agreement. While the Agreement created relative peace and stability, it failed to resolve a fundamental tension at the heart of the conflict – that is, the tension between unionists and nationalists rivaling aspirations for the society. And finally, in Chapter III, I explore the relationship between consociationalism and racism. I argue that consociational Northern Ireland is racist because it fails to adequately address the concerns of ethnic minorities, such as broader societal racism, and actively excludes and discriminates against ethnic minorities through the political process.