A central question in the debate between “centripetalists” and “consociationalists” concerns whether power‐sharing arrangements provide incentives for moderation. This article helps to formulate an empirical answer through an examination of the electoral decline of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) following the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in the North of Ireland. Drawing on primary qualitative interviews with key players, this article argues that the SDLP were electoral losers under a system of ethnic out‐flanking. Sinn Féin has successfully presented itself as the “greener” and more robust representative of nationalist interests, whilst simultaneously moderating its message and operating the institutions of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin has taken ownership of the GFA and has positioned itself as the party best able to ensure its delivery. Sinn Féin’s rights‐based agenda, and vibrant electoral machine, has resonated with the nationalist electorate who are less sure of what the contemporary SDLP stands for.
- Northern Ireland
- Sinn Féin
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Political Science and International Relations