Power-Sharing and Memory-Sharing: Executive Instability and Culture of Remembrance in Northern Ireland 1998-2011

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    This paper explores the relationship between the (in)effectiveness of consociationalism and the culture of remembrance in Northern Ireland between and including the First and Second Executives (1998-2011). It seeks to answer to what extent successes or failures in forming and running a working Executive affected civil society attempts to foster curative re-membering among and within deeply divided communities. Utilising theories of collective memory and consociationalist theories, the paper analyses initiatives such as Healing Through Remembering (HTR) and Unity Pilgrims (UP), the effects the First and Second Executives and the interregnum had on them, if any, and their coping strategies. Conventional wisdom holds that favourable political conditions are the preconditions for the success of social “reconciliation projects”. This study aims to test this commonly held belief by examining (counter) evidence on the ground.

    It has been more than two decades since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), which marked the end of the Troubles (1968-1998) in Northern Ireland that took more than 3,500 lives. In the post-peace agreement era, however, the power-sharing Executive was not running 40% of the time (Tonge 2019), casting doubt on the argument that relative peace after 1998 could be largely explained by the “success” of consociationalism, which has become a “model” or “lesson” for other deeply divided societies to learn from. While there is substantial literature on explaining the ebbs and flows of consociational energies (McGarry and O’Leary 2017), much less work has been done to explore how Executive instability impacts on intercommunal reconciliation efforts such as HTR and UP. The paper therefore aims to theorize on the relationship between the two in order to explain the emergent “culture of remembrance” (Assmann 2006), or coming to terms with the past “from below” (McEvoy et al 2008) in Northern Ireland despite political impasse.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021
    EventPolitical Studies Association 72rd Annual International Conference 2021: Resilience. Expertise. Hope - Virtual
    Duration: 29 Mar 202131 Mar 2021


    ConferencePolitical Studies Association 72rd Annual International Conference 2021
    Abbreviated titlePSA21
    Internet address


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