The Macalester Review


This paper is the outcome of a month-long exploratory study on whether consociationalism has a moderating influence on politics in Northern Ireland. I analyzed the impact of consociationalism on policymaking, party platforms and voter choice to determine if it strengthens and enlarges the middle ground or bifurcates the political community into two extreme and conflicting political agendas. Data was obtained through a literature study and eight interviews with academics as well as political representatives and advisors. This research tested two competing theories of consociationalism: David Horowitz’s theory of consociationalism as a centrifugal force and John McGarry’s and Brendand O’Leary’s theory that consociationalism encourages cooperation and unifying politics. It is concluded that consociationalism has had a dramatic moderating influence on policies and political platforms, but voter choice is still controlled by ethnic allegiances. The disconnect between voter choice and actual governance within Stormont allows parties to grandstand on loose, undefined and shifting platforms which stifles the democratic process. This paper recommends a shift in electoral systems or minor changes to the current consociational structure.