Pragmatists versus dogmatists: Explaining the failure of power-sharing in Northern Ireland during the 1970s

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article argues that the failure of Northern Ireland's first power-sharing executive, and subsequent attempts to restore power-sharing during the 1970s, was the result of conflicting attitudes towards devolution among Northern Ireland's politicians. Traditional ideological divisions between nationalists and unionists were not the primary barrier to creating and sustaining cross-community institutions, as stressed in accounts of this period premised on consociational theory. Drawing extensively from archival sources, it argues that the split between the pragmatists from both communities, who were prepared to compromise their core principles and accept power-sharing devolution within a UK framework, and the dogmatists (both nationalists and unionists) who refused to contemplate any compromise to their core position, prevented a consensual political settlement emerging during the 1970s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-71
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Politics
Issue number1
Early online date17 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


Cite this