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MA in Irish Politics

Pathway diagram for MA in Irish Politics

The Convenor for this degree is Professor Graham Walker who can be contacted for further information.


Parliament Buildings Stormont
Parliament Buildings Stormont

This programme provides students with the opportunity to study in depth both the political history of Ireland, north and south, and contemporary political developments in the two places. There are compulsory modules on the Politics of Northern Ireland and the Politics of the Republic of Ireland, and a choice of an additional module from a menu which includes ‘Northern Ireland and the World’, ‘Conflict Intervention’ and ‘National and Ethnic Conflict Management’.  Students also have to complete a dissertation on an Irish topic of their choice to be agreed with a supervisor from the ranks of staff participating in the programme.

Leinster House
Courtesy of the Houses of the Oireachtas

This MA covers a wide range of topics including Unionist and Nationalist politics in Northern Ireland; theories and interpretations of the Northern Ireland conflict; the relationship between Church and State in the Republic; the effects of political violence; elections and party politics both north and south; gender and politics; questions of national, ethnic and cultural identity; the peace process in Northern Ireland and the nature and impact of political landmarks such as the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Students are given expert guidance on all such topics and the extensive scholarly literature around them. In addition they are taught to develop their analytical and critical skills and to undertake scholarly research based on a range of source materials.

The programme is taught by staff members whose scholarly reputations in these subject areas are of an international standard. 

  • The Northern Ireland component features Professor Paul Bew whose acclaimed works include the recently published Ireland: The Politics of Enmity (Oxford History of Modern Europe Series, 2007) and The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement (2007). Professor Bew is regarded as one of the most authoritative commentators on Irish political developments and contributes regularly to the media coverage of such events. He was also a consultant to the recent ‘Bloody Sunday’ Inquiry.
  • Professor Graham Walker, who is currently convenor of the MA programme and a contributor to the Politics of Northern Ireland module, has written extensively on comparisons between Northern Ireland and Scotland, especially around the theme of devolution and constitutional controversy, and he is the author of A History of the Ulster Unionist Party: Protest, Pragmatism and Pessimism (2004).
  • The Politics of the Republic of Ireland module features Dr. Margaret O’Callaghan whose recent work includes a co-edited volume on the 50th commemoration of the Easter Rising published by the Royal Irish Academy. She has also written widely on the subject of ‘Women and Politics in Independent Ireland’, on the historical controversies surrounding Roger Casement, and on Partition and the Irish Border.



Meeting Parliament Buildings Stormont
Meeting Parliament Buildings Stormont

All the above staff members belong to the Contemporary Irish Political History research subject area of the School which organises regular meetings and lectures of interest to students in the field. All MA students are made welcome at these events. The research subject area and the School provide a collegial and stimulating environment in which to study and to discuss Irish political affairs.


In past years graduates from the MA Irish Politics programme have progressed to careers in the media, local politics, business, and academia itself. Recent examples of MA students who have proceeded to doctoral work include Andrew Sanders who has said of the programme: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the MA in Irish Politics at Queens. It introduced me to several new topics and advanced my understanding of already familiar issues. The variety of optional subjects available allows students to expand their understanding of Irish issues into less familiar grounds such as comparative politics and political thought. Through my work on the MA course I was able to advance my research skills to a point where I could embark upon a Ph.D on a topic that I recognised as being under-researched while working towards my MA dissertation.’

Another graduate of the MA, Dr. Aaron Edwards, is now  Senior Lecturer in Defence and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and says that the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy has many advantages as a place of study: ‘Its close proximity to Northern Ireland archives, such as the Public Record Office Northern Ireland and the Linenhall Library, make it second to none for postgraduate students. The academic staff at the School are genuinely supportive of student learning and research, which makes studying at Queen’s all the more rewarding. I would strongly recommend the MA in Irish Politics programme to prospective students. I found that the MA in Irish Politics gave me an excellent grounding in Irish Politics and proved invaluable when I came to complete my Ph.D studies’.