The selection of party leaders in Northern Ireland

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This article provides an analysis of the leadership selection methods adopted by Northern Ireland's five main parties. Drawing on data from interviews with party elites and internal party documents, it sheds light on an important element of intra-party organisation in the region and constitutes a rare case-study of leadership selection in a consociational democracy. By accounting for instances of organisational reform, this article also reveals the extent to which Northern Ireland's parties align with the wider comparative trend of leadership ‘democratisation’. In terms of ‘who’ selects party leaders, the analysis finds a substantial degree of organisational heterogeneity and a reasonably high rate of democratisation. Northern Ireland's parties also prove rather exceptional in their universal adoption of short fixed terms for party leaders and, in the case of three of the parties, their preference for high candidacy thresholds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901–927
Number of pages27
JournalParliamentary affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2015


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