The history of Northern Ireland is marred with violence and unrest elicited by sectarianism and political tension that was at its worst between the years 1969 and 1999. Strongly divided along religious, economic, and political lines, the rise of factions from each have created recipes for violence where a score of a number of people have lost their lives. Despite the long-standing tension witnessed in Northern Ireland, the embrace of power-sharing and devolution was regarded to provide unity and bring to an end the long feud that has been witnessed in the nation. This essay, therefore, aims to provide a discussion on the underlying conflict in Northern Ireland and the implication linking power-sharing to the institutionalisation of sectarianism.
According to Dirk (2005), the history of Northern Ireland is evidenced with intense sectarian violence. The author further attributes that the dominance of sectarian violence was contributed by an unjust society that has been accounted and blamed attacks that resulted in the loss of lives and property. In this regard, it is imperative to understand that the bred and subsequent perpetuation of sectarianism has been attributed to a number of causes with many indicators pointing towards the complexity of balance of power amongst the people. Barnes (2005) and Knobel (2017) elucidate on the assumed conflict that existed between the Catholics and the Protestants and how it spearheaded the eruption of violence that was further fuelled by the intervention of the British Army. Nevertheless, more recently, Northern Ireland began the transformation process towards peace establishment and the unification of the two warring groups (Salem, 2017). Political parties took the initiative to negotiate towards the formation of a power-sharing government.
The course towards a power-sharing government was aimed at bringing an end to the deep-seated conflict witnessed in the nation for many decades (Rice and Somerville, 2013). As such, the structure was to enhance a peaceful relationship and co-existence amongst the groups on a national level. The aspect of power-sharing has established peace and reforms with instances of violence reducing drastically (Noel, 2005). Despite the fact that numerous benefits have been fostered since the power-sharing deal, many concerns have been raised regarding the crop and perpetuation of contradictory demands from the respective groups in government.
The case of politics being centred on the communal divide portrays a problem that political decisions are dictated by the sectarian groups. Moreover, voting patterns are also hugely directed along the sectarian grounds with no party manifesting any intention of unifying the groups. Based on the competing factors feeding into the notion of power-sharing, the presence of institutionalised sectarianism is evident and perpetuated extensively in Northern Ireland. Notwithstanding the fact that many peacebuilding initiatives are adopted, for example, the building of schools to accommodate children from different groups, the contradictory demands and the stances pulled by political leaders are compelling and seems to justify the implication of power-sharing to institutionalising sectarianism.
The case of proposing hardliners and failing to resign because of graft charges coupled with the complex power-sharing rules means that the government will be brought down once one of the sectarian groups opts out. Therefore, it is inevitable to note that power-sharing has institutionalised sectarianism in Northern Ireland regardless of the benefits being witnessed and enjoyed by the people in the absence of conflicts and violence. Conclusively, this essay has provided a concise discussion regarding violence in Northern Ireland and the implication of power-sharing to institutionalised sectarianism as manifested through hardliners, political differences, and even voting patterns.
- Barnes, L.P., 2005. Religion, Education, and Conflict in Northern Ireland. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 26(2), 123-138.
- Dirk, S., 2005. Beyond the Orange and the Green. The Diversification of the Qualitative Social Research Landscape in Northern Ireland. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol 6, Iss 3.
- Knobel, A.H., 2017. The Evolution of Conflict in Northern Ireland. Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics & Culture, 22(1), 63-67.
- Noel, S.J.R., 2005. From power sharing to democracy: Post-conflict institutions in ethnically divided societies. Montréal [Que.]: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
- Rice, C., and Somerville, I., 2013. Power-sharing and political public relations: Government-press relationships in Northern Ireland’s developing democratic institutions. Public Relations Review, 39, 293-302. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.07.014
- Salem, W., 2017. Northern Ireland: A Successful Story of Conflict Transformation? Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics & Culture, 22(1), 100-106.