Constitutional Inclusion in Divided Societies: Conceptual Choices, Practical Dilemmas, and the Contribution of the Grassroots in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Joanne McEvoy* (Corresponding Author), Jennifer Todd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Processes of constitutional discussion increasingly invite widespread popular inclusion and participation. Conceptual and practical problems remain, not least the respects in which inclusion is to take place. In deeply divided places, these challenges are intensified, first in the difficulties of conceptualising inclusion, and secondly in the practical dangers participation may pose to peace. We tackle these problems empirically by looking at a hard case of constitutional discussion amidst division: the re-emergence of debate about Irish unity in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Through focus groups and interviews, we explore
how ‘others’, disengaged from the main political groups and defined transversally, approach the discussion, showing that they welcome the prospect of participation and seek to remove discursive triggers of conflict by focussing on shared everyday experience. We discuss the implications for the constitutional process and the likely impact on polarisation. The analysis
has implications for the literature on divided societies, for constitutional theory and for policy. We argue that it is both possible and desirable to remedy group exclusion while facilitating universalistic discussion and lessening the dangers of polarisation. The policy implications are quite radical.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCooperation and Conflict
Early online date17 Jan 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jan 2023

Keywords

  • constitutional inclusion
  • divided societies
  • Ireland
  • Northern Ireland

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