Consociationalism and equality within the European Union
: A socio-legal study of community identity and gender in Northern Ireland and Belgium

  • Clare Rice

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Consociationalism, as a model of institutional design for the management of diversity and division, is widely criticised for placing attention on those group identities which epitomise the divisions in a particular place, at the expense of other identities which are rendered as secondary. This thesis takes a socio-legal approach to exploring how the interaction between consociationalism and legislative equality frameworks impacts on experiences of inequalities at the intersection of community identity and gender in two areas within the European Union: Northern Ireland and Belgium.

This is approached in four stages. Firstly, theory on consociationalism and equality law is presented, and the specific examples of the two case study regions outlined. Secondly, findings are presented from interviews conducted with women from both places who are situated at the intersection under investigation, with a view to learning from their lived experiences. Thirdly, these findings are analysed in terms of theory on consociationalism, equality and discrimination, and intersectionality. The thesis concludes by positing a novel adaptation of the nodes concept as developed by Schiek, as a means to showing how positive law on equality and anti-discrimination could be reconceptualised and approached in an alternative way in order to enhance protections at the intersection of community identity and gender in places where consociationalism is used.

The conclusion shows that the multi-level governance structures, equality frameworks created over multiple levels, the presence of consociationalism and the nature of the divisions being examined all combine in specific ways to bear a differential impact on the lived experiences for individuals from each of the communities examined, and particularly for women within this. It is argued that community identity for people from and living in these contexts is intractable, and that this bears consequences for how equality and discrimination are understood in these contexts. Consequently, what is required from equality legislation and what its impact is on everyday experiences for women differs across the communities.

Thesis embargoed until 31 July 2025.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorDagmar Schiek (Supervisor) & Yvonne Galligan (Supervisor)


  • Consociationalism
  • equality
  • Northern Ireland
  • Belgium
  • European Union
  • intersectionality
  • socio-legal

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