Devo-max or Agreement-Max? Northern Ireland after the Scottish Referendum

It has become common political wisdom first in Britain, and latterly in the Irish state, to say that devolution in Northern Ireland means that politicians there must sort out their own conflicts without input from the two states. This is misconceived. In the Northern Irish case, devolution takes a radically different form and function than devolution elsewhere in the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland devolution is a mode of conflict regulation; how it functions depends on how it fits within the wider institutional and constitutional configuration defined by Agreement. If it fails to function as an adequate mode of governance, the fault lies not simply in the political leaders but in the wider configuration which sets incentives, defines opportunities, and gives (or fails to give) a sense of the legitimacy of the political process. That sense of legitimate political balance was hard-won, and it is inevitably cast into question with wider global and national changes. This is all the more likely because it rests on an informal – if ‘determined’ – mode of resolving ongoing disputes of interpretation and of principle by the Irish and British governments. If that informal mode is deemed by the two governments to be either unnecessary or impossible in present circumstances, an alternative must be found.

In this context, the Scottish referendum debates provided a welcome reminder of the powers of constitutional rethinking. In the weeks after the narrow defeat of the ‘yes’ campaign, the inevitability of considerable constitutional remodelling is clear. From an Irish perspective, it is necessary that the principles of the 1998 Agreement be reaffirmed and modes of accountability and adjudicability in areas where they are not already present (not least ‘parity of esteem’, the past, public symbolism) be clearly put in place. By definition, where the only point of agreement in Northern Ireland remains the Agreement (GFA/St Andrews), the Northern Ireland parties cannot themselves adjudicate differences of interpretation of its principles.

In recent working paper I have argued that the success of the GFA has rested on an innovative and informal British-Irish ‘constitutionalism’. The recent political crises show the dangers inherent in this constitutional mode. Radical power-imbalance between the states and new priorities for each allow slippage towards a purely British constitutionalism which undermines the legitimacy and stability of settlement. We don’t need devo-max so much as Agreement-Max, and for that the British and Irish governments have to move beyond symbolic gestures to look at the principles in terms of which Agreement was reached and stabilised.
For more, see here

Posted in Opinion/Debate | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tracking information flows in the Council of the European Union: A social network analysis

9980232816994487415Today the SPIRe seminar series kicks off with a paper by Dr. Derek Greene from the Insight centre for data analytics here at UCD.

The study being presented examines the information flows between actors and committees in the Council of Ministers of the EU during legislative negotiations. We first provide a descriptive account of the network that emerges from the flow of information be- tween actors, and the relative centrality of different actors and committees within this network. We then examine how this network has evolved over time by considering two major exogenous shocks to the network. The first of these shocks is embodied by EU treaty revisions that have impacted upon the formal balance of power between actors negotiating within the Council. The second is related to EU enlargement that introduced a significant number of new actors into Council politics. Our findings suggest that there are significant network dynamic in play in Council politics, that supranational actors play an important role in reducing transaction costs during negotiations, and that these internal network dynamics have evolved over time.

A summary of the paper and interactive versions of the graphs being presented can be found here:

The seminar is on from 4-6pm in Newman G317.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our gender-blind party leadership needs to wake up and smell the coffee

The leaders of all the political parties claim that they place high priority on growing the numbers of women in politics. Following the local elections and cabinet reshuffle how are they faring?

This table shows the situation (as of today) across the 28 EU member states. Ireland is ranked in 24th position – an abysmal but unfortunately consistently poor position for this country. This is what gender quotas are supposed to help fix.

Gender quotas
All the parties signed up to the new gender quota legislation (the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act, 2012) that in the next general election will require all parties to ensure that at least 30% of their candidates are women (and 30% are men; these proportions are set to rise to 40% in due course). Failure to do so will result in hefty fines (50% reduction in the generous public funding that parties receive).

The May 2014 local elections were seen as a dry run. Even though (mistakenly) the gender quota legislation didn’t apply in this case, the parties committed to achieving the 30% nonetheless. In the event only Sinn Féin (narrowly) and the minor left-of-centre parties achieved this (31.6% of SF candidates were women). Labour almost made it (29%), whereas Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were way off (22.8% and 17.1% respectively).

A lot more needs to be done by all of the parties if they are to achieve the 30% figure in 2016 – which is where the recent ministerial reshuffle comes into frame.

Ministerial reshuffles
First, the good news. As the Table above shows post-reshuffle, Ireland (with 4 out of 15 cabinet ministers) is ranked 13 out of the 28 member states, leaping up from our previous position of 25th (when we had just two women cabinet ministers).

But when we broaden the analysis to include ministers of state, things do not look quite so impressive. Comparative figures are not readily to hand, but based on data reported by Yvonne Galligan in Politics in the Republic of Ireland (edited by John Coakley and Michael Gallagher, p.265) the second round of the recent reshuffle saw Ireland take a step back. Adding cabinet ministers and ministers of state together this reshuffle has resulted in 20% of ministers as women, down from 22% at the start of this government and equal to the record set by the Rainbow Coalition in 1994 – twenty years ago.

We’re months away from the next general election and it won’t be long before the parties start the process of selecting their candidates, this time with an eye on meeting the 30% targets set by the gender quota legislation. In order to meet these targets steps need to be taken to attract more women into politics. The inability of most parties to meet 30% targets in the locals and this most recent gender-blind reshuffle are hardly likely to help.

Posted in Opinion/Debate | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two new permanent positions in UCD SPIRe

logoApplications are invited for up to two permanent appointments as Lecturer (above the bar) in the UCD School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe). The person(s) appointed will be expected to contribute significantly to research and teaching within the School.

Note: Appointment will be made for one or two posts, first in the area(s) of conflict resolution/women and security. A second appointment may be made in other areas of primary interest to the School, which include international political economy and political theory. In either case, appointees will be required to work closely with colleagues within the School.

The principal motivation for these posts is to strengthen the School’s profile in international politics, to help in promoting cooperation with other areas of the School (notably the work of colleagues specializing in international relations, human rights, conflict, and development studies), and to develop links with the college, wider university and external bodies.

Note: It is envisaged appointments will commence in January 2015; but earlier start date(s) will be considered.

2013 (2010) Lecturer (ATB) Salary Scale:  €50,807 – €76,936 per annum

2013 (2011) Lecturer (ATB) Salary Scale:  €45,726 – €69,275 per annum *

* Subject to all new entrants to public sector as of 01 January 2011

Appointment will be made on scale and in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines.

Prior to application, further information (including application procedure) should be obtained from the UCD Job Vacancies website:

Closing date: 17.00hrs on Monday 16th June 2014 (GMT)

Applications must be submitted by the closing date and time specified. Any applications which are still in progress at the closing time of 17:00hrs on the specified closing date will be cancelled automatically by the system. UCD do not accept late applications.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

euandi – A voter advice application for the forthcoming European elections

James CrossWith the European elections fast approaching, informing voters about the politics and policies of the parties running in the election is an important undertaking. Of course, we cannot leave the provision of information to the parties themselves. The euandi project helps citizens make informed choices in their 2014 European Parliament (EP) vote.

Developed by the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, with the help of a cross-national team of scholars (including myself), the euandi project provides voters with a clear view of the European electoral campaign and their individual positions within it. Not only does the tool help people identify which political parties represent their views, but it also provides an innovative platform for community building, where people from all over Europe can connect with each other based on their political views. In addition, euandi will also be one of the largest public opinion measurement tools ever built. With the aim of attracting over 10 million users across Europe, it will result into the largest academic set of data available on public opinion in Europe.

The tool’s strong scientific background and its innovative social features make it interesting not only to the general public, but also to academics, experts and policy makers. With the 2014 European Parliamentary elections now on the horizon, the euandi team invites you to use our application to help you make an informed voting decision in the coming election.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Art of the Troubles: Culture, Conflict and Commemoration

Art of the Troubles: Culture, Conflict and Commemoration
Ulster Museum, Belfast
Friday, 6 June 2014
Registration: 9:00am
Conference: 9:30am – 16:00pm

Speakers include: Garrett Carr, Anne Devlin, Colin Graham, Neil Jarman, Daniel Jewesbury, John Killen, Jimmy McAleavey, Paula McFetridge, Roisin McGlone, Nuala McKeever, Cahal McLaughlin, Malachi O’Doherty, Glenn Patterson

This conference is a collaboration between IBIS and the Ulster Museum to complement the ‘Art of the Troubles’ exhibition currently on show at the museum.
It explores the role of art and artistic interventions in reshaping social relations in Northern Ireland. Conflict and division within Northern Ireland has often been seen to relate to differing modes of belonging: Clashes occur at many levels, from the level of elite political leadership to everyday interactions surrounding visions of legitimacy and constitutional rights, perceptions of historic grievance and images of what constitutes communal allegiance. The recent talks process (chaired by the American diplomat, Dr Richard Haass) aimed at devising a policy framework for moving beyond these clashes ended in relative failure.
Haass proposed that a new ‘civic vision’ should take the place of these divergent perceptions and the conference takes as its point of departure the role that art plays in troubling received imageries, undercutting political tendencies towards polarisation, and providing a fresh lens through which to envisage change. In this way, the conference takes as its inspiration, and starting point, the Ulster Museum’s Art of the Troubles exhibition, which developed in conjunction with Wolverhampton Art Gallery, which provides a broad representation of artists’ responses to, and reflections on, the Troubles. Art of the Troubles comprises 60 works, from 48 different artists, including paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and sculpture. Encompassing a range of themes universal to conflict – such as suffering and loss, violence and destruction, imprisonment, sectarianism, traditions, territory, and life in the midst of turmoil – the conflict is responded to through a plethora of mediums and approaches.
In response to the overarching consideration of the role art plays in responding to, address and countering conflict, the conference will address the following questions: How do visual objects shape the perception of division? How do (or even can) they work to reshape perceptions in ways that represent (or undercut) inclusivity and consensus? How do visual symbols work to reveal forms of belonging and sharing that remain obscured and hidden by more mainstream ethnonational imagery? What is the role of popular visual culture in fostering plurality, peace and stability? What interventions are necessary to promote change and transition in the post-Haass era? How do visual arts work to dismember reified memories and reconfigure alternative futures? What lessons can be drawn from other post-conflict and deeply divided societies in promoting reconciliation through visual art?

Posted in Upcoming SPIRe Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Constitutions and Culture Wars: Northern Ireland, the Irish State and the North-South Dimension

Constitutions and Culture Wars: Northern Ireland, the Irish State and the North-South Dimension
John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, UCD
Monday, 16 June 2014

Speakers: John Coakley, Yvonne Galligan, John Garry, Melanie Hoewer, Brendan O’Leary, Joseph Ruane, Jennifer Todd, Jon Tonge

Sixteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, and after a period of stabilisation of the institutions and completion of implementation, we appear to be re-entering a phase of instability and uncertainty. There has been much discussion of the British role in Northern Ireland and the increasingly positive East-West linkages, in the context of uncertain Scottish and EU relations. This conference focuses on a less-studied aspect of the situation: the North-South linkages and their impact on changing popular politics in NOrthern Ireland. It marks the retirement of Professor John Coakley, founding director of IBIS, and follows up on some of his important work on the institutional aspects of these linkages.

The conference looks at the North-South relationship in three aspects:

Public opinion: the continuing salience of the South in the North?
Changing public opinion in Northern Ireland and the role of veto players.
Speakers include John Garry and Jon Tonge.

Institutional linkages and networks
Gendered linkages, harmonisation of rights and the impact of gender politics on a North-South basis.
Speakers include Yvonne Galligan and Melanie Hoewer

Constitutional and cultural divisions: contextualising the current conjecture
Speakers include John Coakley, Brendan O’Leary and Joseph Ruane/Jennifer Todd

The conference ends with a roundtable discussion on ‘the past’ and the purposes of commemoration

Posted in Upcoming SPIRe Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Europe Needs to Address Its Deficit in Voter Trust

Regan_Aidan HDThe financial-cum-sovereign-debt crisis in the euro zone and the emergence of the troika have led to the perception that Europe is failing to deliver. There is no narrative beyond cuts, bailouts and fiscal austerity. Unemployment in the euro zone is at an all-time high. Growth is stagnant. In some countries such as Spain and Italy, youth unemployment has reached a staggering 50 per cent….

The recent turbulence is reflected in Eurobarometer data. The percentage of citizens dissatisfied with how the EU works has grown substantially. Distrust in European institutions is at an all-time historic high. Citizens are losing trust in both the function and democratic nature of institutions. If history teaches us anything, this does not bode well for social cohesion or economic stability. It is not unreasonable to suggest therefore that European democracy is in crisis. It is increasingly perceived as being neither effective nor democratic.

SPIRes Dr. Aidan Regan writes in the Irish Times on the impact of the Eurozone crisis on democratic trust in the European Union: here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New paper on the state of our system of representative democracy

Professor David Farrell, UCD School of Politics and International RelationsThe latest issue of West European Politics is dedicated to the late Peter Mair, including a paper by SPIRe’s David Farrell. This paper addresses Mair’s lament about the state of party politics and the future of representative politics itself. Farrell’s paper uses Mair’s thesis to frame a discussion about the state of our representative system of democracy. It starts by setting out his arguments on party and democratic failure. It then considers the question of whether the evidence supports such a perspective, or whether in fact there are signs of adaptability and change. This in turn leads to a discussion about the reform agenda in established representative democracies, with particular attention to the potential of ‘mini-publics’ in enabling a role for ordinary citizens in debates over constitutional reform. The paper concludes by arguing that this reform agenda provides evidence of democracies being reconfigured rather than stripped down.

Posted in New SPIRe Research | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment