By Adrian Little (auth.)
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Extra info for Democracy and Northern Ireland: Beyond the Liberal Paradigm?
10 In terms of democracy, it suggests that we need to be sceptical about such legalism and, moreover, that no document or Agreement is capable of encapsulating lasting democratic arrangements. The provisions of the Agreement are actually an historical artefact which capture the political decisions of the respective élites in terms of what they could sell to their membership at a given historical point. The Agreement establishes principles which may well turn out to be difﬁcult to reverse, but this does not mean that it contains the deﬁnitive statement of how democratic institutions should be established in Northern Ireland: such arrangements will change and develop according to circumstances and different contexts in Northern Irish politics.
When these are coupled with the changing approaches of the British and Irish governments, it is clear that context is fundamental to our understanding of politics generally and agreements such as that in 1998 in particular. In practice, the political context of such agreements will therefore necessitate deviations from theoretical models such as the consociational theory proposed by Lijphart (1968, 1969). In Northern Ireland, the attraction of consociationalism is clear insofar as it is designed to provide political élites with the wherewithal to reach consensual decisions with the representatives of those from whom they or their supporters are divided in everyday society.
Lastly, if these aspects of public reason cannot be operationally articulated then the idea of establishing that reason in procedures and institutions is a distant target in societies like Northern Ireland. To clarify this point it is worth examining the differentiation that Rawls made between public and non-public reason. The initial argument 40 Democracy and Northern Ireland is that by deﬁnition public reason is a singular voice whereas he contended that there is a multiplicity of non-public reasons emanating, for example, from churches, pressure groups, professional organisations and so on: ‘Nonpublic reasons comprise the many reasons of civil society and belong to what I have called the “background culture,” in contrast with the public political culture.
Democracy and Northern Ireland: Beyond the Liberal Paradigm? by Adrian Little (auth.)