Secrecy and Power-sharing

Neil Matthews, University of Bristol

Secrecy was identified by Arend Lijphart (1968; 1975) as one of seven ‘rules of the game’ of accommodation in deeply-divided societies. Comparative research has, however, largely overlooked the role of secrecy in the effective functioning of power-sharing government. This project accounts for the nature and practice of secrecy in the contemporary politics of Northern Ireland and assesses elite attitudes towards the functional necessity of ‘opaqueness’ in a consociational democracy. Ultimately, the Northern Irish case holds important lessons for those interesting in assessing the more ‘difficult-to-reach’ elements of power-sharing theory and practice.