Territorial disputes: Northern Ireland (Part 25) [Post 110]

Northern Ireland and the egalitarian shared sovereignty

Different from other territorial disputes in this blog series, with Northern Ireland we followed a different path. The first 20 posts (posts 86-105) had to do with European Union law (free movement of persons, European citizenship, free movement of goods, capital and services). The last four posts (posts 106-109) introduced very briefly the background situation in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland and territory: the egalitarian shared sovereignty

Territory, in principle, can be defined as an area owned and possessed by the population (in land, water, space and, perhaps, cyberspace).Like population, it may have features that could cause controversy in TERRITORIAL DISPUTES.Some of the features that constitute territory will be reviewed using the case of Northern Ireland in light of Brexit. Those that introduce controversy will be analyzed using the model proposed here. Next time we center the attention on borders, natural resources and defense.

Let us remember the way in why this series propose to deal with TERRITORIAL DISPUTES via the egalitarian shared sovereignty. The allocation of sovereignty will be given by:

  • equal right to participate (egalitarian consensus principle);
  • the nature and degree of participation depends on efficiency of accomplishing the particular objective/area/activity at issue (principle of efficiency);
  • each party receives a benefit (in terms of rights and opportunities) that depends on what that party cooperates with (input-to-output ratio principle); and
  • provided the party with greater ability and therefore greater initial participation rights has the obligation to bring the other two parties towards equilibrium (equilibrium proviso).

I call this way of dealing with sovereignty conflicts or disputes the EGALITARIAN SHARED SOVEREIGNTY.

Many questions are to be expected. Amongst them:

  • How is that translated into geographical borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit?
  • What about the exploration and exploitation of natural resources? This question has two parts:
  1. the sea-zone adjacent to Northern Ireland only; and
  2. the portion that overlaps with the Republic of Ireland.
  • Finally, in the hypothetical scenario that Northern Ireland had a referendum and decided to leave the United Kingdom, who would defend them?

The next posts on this blog series about TERRITORIAL DISPUTES will cover these questions. In order to answer them, the posts will explore the concept of self-determination in the event Northern Ireland decided to have a referendum in the future.


This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (Routledge 2020).Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.


Northern Ireland and self-determination.                   

Friday 29th May 2020

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World


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