Beyond Matryoshka Governance in the Twenty-First Century: The Curious Case of Northern Ireland

Sylvia de Mars, Aoife O'Donoghue

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers how Northern Ireland’s experience during and after Brexit informs our understandings of multi-level governance orders and interactions between and within those orders. A traditional view of governance structures would regard Northern Ireland as having little say in negotiations on trade. Nonetheless, the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement have repeatedly seen all parties refer to and return to governance in Northern Ireland as a core concern. This piece will utilise scale theory – originating in political geography – to consider how Northern Ireland became central to the Brexit negotiations. Scale, as a geographical and political idea, incorporates a range of concepts (core and periphery, population size, majorities and minorities, temporality (linear and nonlinear), geographic governance size), as well as questions of local, national, regional and universal spaces to consider how governance is constructed and the role law plays in constructing scales. Whereas traditional accounts of scaled governance orders deploy “nested” constructs to place Northern Ireland in a tidy frame, organised like a series of Russian dolls, this chapter challenges this narrative by interrogating the slippage between the governance orders and their methods of interaction, and what extent of ‘voice’ that ultimately leaves for Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Brexit Challenge for Ireland and the United Kingdom: Constitutions under Pressure
EditorsOran Doyle, Aileen McHarg, Jo Murkens
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108966399
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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