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Why Justice Can't Have It All: In Reply to O'Neill

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian O'FlynnORCiD


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In a recent article published in this journal, Shane O’Neill set out to address the problem of unjust structural hierarchies and the experience of political alienation to which they can give rise. One of the key elements in his argument is the idea of a relational conception of group difference, an idea which has much to offer but which must be handled very carefully if it is to secure real gains in understanding. Firstly, this article will seek to further analyse and evaluate this conception through an exploration of its institutional implications with respect to structures for sharing in ethnically diverse societies. Secondly, it will use this evaluation as a means of critiquing and rejecting O’Neill’s argument for joint British-Irish sovereignty in Northern Ireland. Finally, this article will show that, as far as the case of Northern Ireland is concerned, the value of a relational conception should not be thought of as deriving from its capacity to provide determinate answers. Rather, it should be thought of as deriving from the role that it might potentially play in clarifying the background conditions against which different constitutional options might be meaningfully debated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Flynn I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ethnicities

Year: 2004

Volume: 4

Issue: 4

Pages: 545-561

Print publication date: 01/01/2004

ISSN (print): 1468-7968

ISSN (electronic): 1741-2706


DOI: 10.1177/1468796804049345


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