SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Northern Ireland;
  • Devolution;
  • Consociationalism;
  • national identity
Research Highlights and Abstract
  • Offers one of the first detailed considerations of how political parties in Northern Ireland have adapted to the impact of the dual legitimacy of Protestant-British-Unionist and Catholic-Irish-Nationalist identities central to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement
  • Extends debates about devolution and party competition which have been centred on Great Britain to the United Kingdom.
  • Outlines how the continuing bi-communalism of the electorate discourages parties from reshaping identity or chasing votes beyond the ethnic divide
  • Analyses how nationalist parties, Sinn Féin in particular, have developed the rights of all citizens on the island of Ireland to be Irish, under the post-Good Friday Agreement Irish constitution
  • Assesses the data indicating a modest growth of a common Northern Irish identity

In this article we examine how party political competition in Northern Ireland impacts on understandings of national identity and citizenship both within the region and elsewhere in the UK. These dynamics can be seen in expressions of political identity and through organisational change and electoral strategies. The consociational framework in which Northern Irish parties operate is one of the most powerful dynamics and we assess how it has shaped intra-community party competition, most notably through the emergence of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin as the strongest unionist and nationalist parties respectively. However, our analysis of campaigning and voting in the 2010 General Election and 2011 Assembly elections also shows that the transformation of party political competition in the UK after devolution is an important dynamic and one that has shaped unionist electoral strategies in particular.