Brandon University’s Dr. Allison McCulloch has received the Elizabeth Meehan ‘Best Article’ Prize for 2018. The award, announced recently, recognizes a peer-reviewed, original research article by Dr. McCulloch that appeared in the October 2018 edition of the Government and Opposition journal, published by Cambridge University Press.
“I am delighted to receive this recognition,” said Dr. McCulloch, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Brandon University.
The article was the result of research she conducted in Belfast, Northern Ireland, while she was on sabbatical as a visiting research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research was also partly supported by a BU research grant.
“In the article, I develop a framework for assessing how veto rights operate in post-conflict power-sharing systems,” she explained. She first applied the framework to Northern Ireland and has since extended it to a number of other post-conflict contexts, including Burundi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.
In Northern Ireland, for example, power is shared between British unionists and Irish nationalists.
“Veto rights have become particularly contentious since the leading British unionist party vetoed marriage equality in 2015” she said. “In Northern Ireland, vetoes are overwhelmingly used to protect the vital interests of the two communities but there have also been some serious abuses, including the marriage equality vote, that violate the spirit and intention of the veto rules.”
Her award-winning article also outlines modifications to the rules that could limit these kinds of abuses. It’s timely information: Power-sharing has been suspended since 2017 and one of the key sticking points to get the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running is the question of what to do about the veto.
“Overall, my research shows that vetoes are contentious but integral mechanisms for the protection of minority rights in divided societies but can be prone to abuse,” she said. “Whether they are used for minority protection or abused for partisan purposes depends on the technical rules that govern their use.”
The article, which argues that a permissive approach can contribute to moderation, peace and stability, is available online through Cambridge University Press at https://doi.org/10.1017/gov.2017.6
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