The merits of consociation as a means of solving the Northern Ireland conflict are presented through contrasting it with other ways of stabilizing highly divided political systems. Why voluntary consociation has been unsuccessful in Northern Ireland and unfortunately is likely to remain so is explained. The signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) must be understood against the background of the failure of previous consociational experiments. The AIA partly represented a shift in British strategy from voluntary to coercive consociationalism. The prospects for this coercive consociational strategy and variants on it are evaluated.