Letter: Shared sovereignty over Northern Ireland

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Sir: In 1990 Brendan O'Leary co- edited a valuable volume of essays (The Future of Northern Ireland), in which experts addressed a variety of possible options for the government of the region.

Discussing the arguments of one of their authors, in favour of joint London-Dublin authority over the area, O'Leary and his co- editor noted that as this proposal 'must involve an explicit upgrading of Dublin's power over Northern Ireland', its implementation 'might produce destabilisation and possibly a very violent reaction'. This shrewd assessment seems all the more pertinent in the current context, scarred as the situation is by an increasing level of loyalist violence.

Governmental ambivalence or ambiguity regarding Northern Ireland's status within the UK undoubtedly contributes towards a mood of uncertainty and insecurity, in which loyalist (and other) violence is likely to increase. Thus, it is perhaps surprising to find Brendan O'Leary advocating 'shared sovereignty' as the way forward ('Steps towards a

constitutional compromise', 28


The sharing of sovereignty between London and Dublin would involve a spectacular 'upgrading of Dublin's power over Northern Ireland' and would certainly produce dramatically higher levels of violence. The economic difficulties involved in such an arrangement would also be enormous.

O'Leary suggests that 'Unionists could be assured that the new arrangments would not be a staging post for Irish unification'. In fact, it is difficult to see how either community's hard-line enthusiasts would be likely to accept such an assurance. The consequences are easy to predict.

Yours sincerely,



29 January