Northern Ireland's democratic governance is consociational (i.e. power-sharing is mandatory) and therefore substantially different from the majoritarian electoral system which characterizes most Western democratic societies. Consociationalism has been advocated as a form of democracy which can reconcile post-conflict societies fragmented along ethnic, religious or linguistic lines. Political public relations within mandatory coalitions have received little attention from scholars to date. Drawing on data from elite interviews with Government Information Officers (GIOs), Ministerial Special Advisers (SpAds) and journalists in Northern Ireland, this paper analyses their perspectives on political public relations in Northern Ireland's evolving democratic institutions. Our findings suggest Northern Ireland's public sphere is characterized not just by the usual contest between government communicators and journalists over political stories, but also by competition across government departments and within departments between GIOs and SpAds. Our research investigates the role of public relations in Northern Ireland's developing democratic institutions and more generally identifies important issues surrounding government communication in post-conflict power-sharing democracies.
- Political public relations
- Government-press relationships
- Northern Ireland