For thirty years, Northern Ireland was riven by sustained ethnonationalist conflict over the issue of whether the territory should remain part of the United Kingdom or reunify with the Republic of Ireland. The 1998 Belfast or "Good Friday" Agreement brought peace to the region by instituting a consociational government, which acknowledged the political differences between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland and established a legislative body characterized by power-sharing between the region's political parties. In Consociation and Voting in Northern Ireland, the first study to address electoral behaviors and opinions in a power-sharing society, John Garry interrogates the democratic efficacy of Northern Ireland's consociational government.
John Garry investigates the electoral period between 2007—when all of Northern Ireland's major political parties joined the power-sharing government—and 2011 and analyzes postelection survey data to assess the democratic behavior of Northern Irish voters. The evidence is used to address the following questions: How democratic is a consociational government? If all the main parties are in the government, and there are no opposition parties per se, is it possible for voters to hold the government to account? Do power-sharing structures simply perpetuate underlying divisions in the constituency? And since consociational power sharing relies on agreements between senior politicians, can citizens end up feeling disillusioned and, therefore, disinclined to vote? In the process of answering these questions, Garry presents new information on shifting identity formations in Northern Ireland and extends his analysis to the implications of power-sharing agreements for other nations.