Home > News and media > Publications > Publications archive > 2005 > Imposing Power-Sharing: conflict and coexistence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon


Imposing Power-Sharing: conflict and coexistence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon

Page Contents >

Michael Kerr
Forward by Brendan O'Leary 
Irish Academic Press (18 October 2005)

This book examines the use of consociational democracy as a tool for the regulation of ethno-national conflict in Northern Ireland and Lebanon and evaluates the power sharing agreements that were used to regulate the ethno-national conflicts at different times in both divided societies.

Regarding Northern Ireland, it analyses the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement in comparison with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and, in Lebanon, the 1943 National Pact with with the Ta'if Accords of 1989. It compares and contrasts the implementation and interpretation of power sharing in the two regions from the perspective of how external variables influenced the respective consociational arrangements and domestic elites. 

The research questions whether consociation can be used as a long-term tool for ethnic conflict regulation in the absence of positive exogenous variables that serve to facilitate and maintain an environment within which consociation can successfully be employed. It argues that for these ethnic conflicts to be successfully regulated by power sharing in the long-term, the stability of the external region is paramount and the external powers must have a positive interest in regulating the conflict. 

The book deals with the four power sharing agreements in four separate chapters, with two chapters addressing the dynamics of internal and external relations, and the various attempts to regulate the conflict in both cases during their respective civil wars and peace processes. It concludes by drawing together and contrasting the different circumstances and experiences of consociation within the theoretical framework. As such, it provides an analysis of the limitations to imposing consociation in democratic and non-democratic environments, and the prospects for successfully regulating ethnic conflict in these two cases using such methods.  

Michael Kerr is a tutorial fellow from the International History Department at LSE.


'This book provides a compelling analysis of the power-sharing arrangements governing two deeply divided societies - Northern Ireland and Lebanon. It is unique in that it focuses on the external context, thus going against conventional arguments that internal factors are the key for reaching peace and making it work. The book is also packed with primary research giving original insights into the political dynamics of both Lebanon and Northern Ireland.'
Dr Kirsten Schulze, senior lecturer in international history, LSE

'Using the cases of Lebanon and Northern Ireland, Michael Kerr argues very persuasively that the external context of power-sharing agreements has tended to be neglected. His comparative analysis of Lebanon and Northern Ireland underscores its importance and in doing so makes a highly significant contribution to the literature on the politics of deeply divided societies.'
Professor Adrian Guelke, Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, School of Politics and International Studies, Queen's University Belfast

'At a time when power-sharing is the number one issue in Iraq, Michael Kerr's analysis of inter-ethnic coexistence in Lebanon and Northern Ireland is extremely instructive. His perspective of considering external factors is of special relevance.'
Nadim Shehadi, acting head, Middle East Programme, Chatham House