Brendan O'Leary

Lauder Professor of Political Science
3440 Market Street, Room 308
+1-215-573-0645

Brendan O'Leary was born in Cork, Ireland. His childhood and teenage years were mostly spent in Nigeria, Sudan, and Northern Ireland. He is a graduate of Keble College, Oxford University, where he was the holder of an Open Scholarship, and received a first class honors degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1981). He was tutored by Larry Siedentop, the scholar of Tocqueville and critic of the democratic underdevelopment of the European Union, and by the economist Paul Collier. O'Leary wrote his PhD thesis at  the London School of Economics & Political Science. It was examined by Ernest Gellner and Nicos Mouzelis, and won the Robert McKenzie Memorial Prize. It was subsequently published as The Asiatic Mode of Production: Oriental Despotism, Historical Materialism and Indian History

Before coming to Penn, O'Leary was on the faculty of the London School of Economics and Political Science between 1983 and 2003, where he had been Professor of Political Science, head of its Government Department, and an elected Academic Governor. Between 2012 and 2014 he is also Professor of Political Science at Queen's University Belfast.

O'Leary's professorial career has been combined with political advisory work. He was a political advisor to the British Labour Shadow Cabinet on Northern Ireland between 1987-8 and 1996-7, advising Kevin McNamara and the late Marjorie ("Mo") Mowlam. He advised Irish, British, and American ministers and officials and the the Irish-American Morrison delegation during the Northern Ireland peace process, appearing as an expert witness before the  US Congress, and being a guest at the White House. His ideas on power-sharing are said to have been influential, and his work with John McGarry on police reform was singled out in the press for influencing the commission on police reform which reported in 1999. O'Leary has also worked as a constitutional advisor for the European Union and the United Nations in the promotion of confederal and federal re-building of Somalia, and for the United Kingdom's Department of International Development in constitutional consultancies on power-sharing in coalition governments in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, and in Nepal.  Between 2003 and 2009  he was regularly an international constitutional advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, assisting in the negotiation of the Transitional Administrative Law (2004); electoral systems design (2004-5); the Constitution of Iraq (2005), and the Constitution of the Kurdistan Region (2005-). He has been an expert witness on Iraq to branches of the US Government, and to the United Kingdom's Iraq Commission. For the UN he contributed to its 2004 United Nations Human Development Report on Culture and Liberty. In 2009-2010 O'Leary was seconded to the UN as the Senior Advisor on Power-Sharing in the Standby Team of the Mediation Support Unit of the Department of Political Affairs. 

In 2009, Rupert Taylor published Consociational Theory: McGarry and O'Leary and the Northern Ireland Conflict, Routledge, a symposium devoted to Professor O'Leary's work with his colleague Professor John McGarry.  The collection is preceded by a lengthy statement by McGarry and O'Leary, and concludes with their reply to the 16 contributions which discuss their work.

Harrison Prize Winner: A paper co-authored by Dr. Paul Mitchell (LSE), Professor Geoffrey Evans (Oxford) and Brendan O'Leary (University of Pennsylvania) has won the Harrison Prize in 2010 for the best paper published in Political Studies, the flagship journal of the UK's Political Studies Association in 2009:  "Extremist Outbidding in Ethnic Party Systems is Not Inevitable: Tribune Parties in Northern Ireland."

A video of Professor O'Leary's Leonard Schapiro lecture at the Annual Conference of the UK's Political Science Association may be found here

In 2014, he won the first Juan Linz prize of the International Political Science Association (link). 

Research Interests: 
  • Power-sharing systems, especially in consociations and pluralist federations. 
  • Nationalism; national and ethnic conflict-regulation; national self-determination. 
  • National, ethnic and communal violence and the security sectors of divided places. 
  • Democracy, democratization and electoral systems. 
  • Despotisms: Ancient and Modern.
  • Nations, States and Empires: past and present.  
  • Constitutional design debates: especially regarding executives; legislatures; electoral systems; minority, group, linguistic, ethnic, religious, autonomy and national self-determination rights, and the division and sharing of powers in federations and confederations (including the EU).
  • Secular and theocratic doctrines. 
  • Empirical conflict research: Iraq's federalization; the Break-up of Sudan; the Irish peace process; Kurdish politics.
  • The Crises of the European Union.
Selected Publications: 

Publications: O'Leary has written or co-written over fifty journal articles and over one hundred chapters in edited volumes, as well as hundreds of newspaper, magazine and encylopedia articles. He has written, co-written, edited and co-edited twenty-one books and collections, which are  listed below.

Books & Collections

  1. Courts and Consociations: Human Rights versus Power-Sharing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), with Christopher McCrudden.
  2. Divided Nations and European Integration (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), Co-Editor with T. Mabry, J. McGarry and M. Moore.
  3. Power-Sharing in Deeply Divided Places (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), Co-Editor with J. McEvoy.
  4. How To Get Out Of Iraq, With Integrity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
  5. The Kurdistan Region: Invest in the future. An official publication of the Kurdistan Regional Government (London & Washington, DC: Newsdesk Publications, 2nd entirely new edition, 2009). Editor.
  6. The Kurdistan Region: Invest in the future. An official publication of the Kurdistan Regional Government (London & Washington, DC: Newsdesk Publications, 2008). Editor.
  7. Terror, Insurgency and the State: Ending Protracted Conflicts(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). Co-editor with M. Heiberg and J. Tirman.
  8. The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). Co-editor with J. McGarry and K. Salih.
  9. The Northern Ireland Conflict: Consociational Engagements(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). With J. McGarry.
  10. Right-Sizing the State: The Politics of Moving Borders (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). Co-editor with I. S. Lustick and T. Callaghy.
  11. Policing Northern Ireland: Proposals for a New Start (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1999). With J. McGarry.
  12. The Politics of Antagonism: Understanding Northern Ireland(London & Atlantic Heights, N.J.: Athlone, pp 358. 1993, 2nd updated edition: 1996) (with J. McGarry). [Short-listed for the Ewart-Biggs Memorial prize 1994].
  13. Explaining Northern Ireland: Broken Images (Oxford, England, Cambridge, Mass: Basil Blackwell & John Wiley, 1995). Reprinted twice. With J. McGarry.
  14. State of Truce: Northern Ireland after Twenty-Five Years of War. Special Issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies. 1995. 18, 4. Co-editor with J. McGarry.
  15. Northern Ireland: Sharing Authority (London: Institute of Public Policy Research, 1993). With T. Lyne, J. Marshall, and B. Rowthorn).
  16. The Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation: Case Studies of Protracted Ethnic Conflicts.(London & New York: Routledge, 1993). Co-editor with J. McGarry.
  17. Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Core Executive, Special Issue of Public Administration. 1990, 68, 1. Co-editor  with P. Dunleavy and R.A.W. Rhodes.
  18. The Future of Northern Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) pp. 376. Foreword by Arend Lijphart. Co-editor with J. McGarry.
  19. Jack Watson's World History Since 1945 (London: John Murray, 1990). Editor.
  20. The Asiatic Mode of Production: Oriental Despotism, Historical Materialism, and Indian History. (Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989). Foreword by Ernest Gellner. [Selected as one of 202 central works of sociology in the 20th century in the digest Schlüsselwerke der Soziologie, eds. S. Papcke & G.W. Oesterdiekhoff (eds.) (Berlin: Westdesutscher Verlag, 2001, pp. 372-4)]

Selection of chapters in books edited by others, 2005-2012 

  1. 2012. “The Politics of Accommodation and Integration in Democratic States.” In (Eds.) A. Guelke & J. Tournon, The Study of Politics and Ethnicity: Recent Analytical Developments (Leverkusen Opladen: Barbara Budrich), pp. 79-116. In The World of Political Science: The Development of the Discipline Book Series. (with J. McGarry) [International Political Science Association Series].
  2. 2012.  “Partition,” in (Eds.) T. Wilson and H. Donnan, The Blackwell-Wiley Companion to Border Studies. (Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley), pp. 29-47.
  3. 2012.  “Territorial Pluralism: Its Forms, Flaws and Virtues.” In Federalism, Plurinationality and Democratic Constitutionalism: Theory and Cases, ed. F. Requejo and M. Caminal. (New York: Routledge), pp. 17-50.  (with J. McGarry)
  4. 2011. “Debating Partition: Evaluating the Standard Justifications.” In (Eds.) K. Cordell and S. Wolff The Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict  (London: Routledge), pp. 140-57.
  5. 2011. “Territorial Approaches to Ethnic Conflict Settlement.” In (Eds.) K. Cordell and S. Wolff, The Routledge Handbook on Ethnic Conflict (London: Routledge, pp. 249-65. (with J. McGarry).
  6. 2011. “Consociation and Self-Determination Disputes: The Evidence from Northern Ireland and Other Cases.” In (Eds.) K. Breen & S. O'Neill After the Nation? (London: Palgrave-Macmillan), pp. 38-59. (with J. McGarry) 
  7. 2011. “Iraq as a New Multi-National State: A Cautious Defense.” In (Eds.) K. Breen & S. O'Neill  (eds.) After the Nation?  (Basingstoke: Macmillan Palgrave), pp. 60-83.
  8. 2010. “Thinking About Asymmetry and Symmetry in the Remaking of Iraq.” In Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts, (Eds.) M. Weller & K. Nobbs (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), pp. 183-212.
  9. 2010. “Electoral Systems and the Lund Recommendations.” In Political Participation of Minorities: A Commentary on International Standards and Practice, (Eds.) Marc Weller and Katharine Nobbs, (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 363-400
  10. 2009. “Theocracy and the Separation of Powers,” in (Eds.) M. Ferrero and R. Wintrobe, The Political Economy of Theocracy. (London and New York: Palgrave),  Chapter 1. pp. 9-30.
  11. 2009.  “Part 1. Argument. Power-Shared after the Deaths of Thousands,” in R. Taylor, (Ed.) Consociational Theory: McGarry-O’Leary and the Northern Ireland Conflict. London: Routledge. pp. 13-84. (with J. McGarry)
  12. 2009. “Part III. Response: Under Friendly and Less Friendly Fire,”in Rupert Taylor ed., Consociational Theory: McGarry-O’Leary and the Northern Ireland Conflict. (London: Routledge). pp. 331-388, (with J. McGarry)
  13. 2009. “Consociational Theory and Peace Agreements in Pluri-National Places: Northern Ireland and Other Cases,”in G. Ben-Porat (Ed.), The Failure of the Middle East Peace Process. London: Palgrave, pp. 70-96, (with J. McGarry)
  14. 2008 “Integration or Accommodation? The Enduring Debate in Conflict Regulation,”in S. Choudhry, (Ed.), Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation? (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 41-88. (with J. McGarry and Richard Simeon).
  15. 2008. “Complex Power-Sharing in and over Northern Ireland: A Self-Determination Agreement, a Treaty, a Consociation, a Federacy, Matching Confederal Institutions, Inter-Governmentalism and a Peace Process,” in M. Weller, B. Metzger and N. Johnson (Eds.) Settling Self-Determination Disputes: Complex Power-Sharing in Theory and Practice (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers: Dodrecht), pp. 61-124.
  16. 2007. “Federalizing Natural Resources in Iraq’s Constitution,”in D. Malone, B. Roswell, and M. E. Bouillon (Eds.) Iraq: Preventing a New Generation of Conflict (Boulder, Co: Lynne Reinner), pp. 189-202.
  17. 2005. “Debating Consociational Politics: Normative and Explanatory Arguments.” In From Power-Sharing to Democracy: Post-Conflict Institutions in Ethnically Divided Societies, (Ed.) S. J. R. Noel. (Toronto: McGill-Queens University Press), pp. 3-4

Selection of 20 Journal Articles (1987-2012)

  1. 2014. "The Shackles of the State & Hereditary Animoisities: Colonialism in the Interpretation of Irish History." Field Day Review, 10, 148-186. This exerpt is pages 1-20. The full article may be found in this year’s edition of Field Day Review.
  2. 2014. "Why Northern Ireland’s Institutions Need Stability." Government and Opposition.  International Journal of Comparative Politics. 
  3. 2012. “The Federalization of Iraq and the Break-up of Sudan: The Leonard Schapiro Lecture.” Government and Opposition.  International Journal of Comparative Politics,  47 (4): 481-516.
  4. 2009. “Extremist Outbidding In Ethnic Party Systems Is Not Inevitable: Tribune Parties in Northern Ireland,” Political Studies. 72, 2 (June), pp. 397-421. Winner of the 2010 Harrison Prize for the best article published in Political Studies in 2009. (with P. Mitchell and G. Evans)
  5. 2008. “Must Pluri-National Federations Fail?” Ethnopolitics (Special Issue on Federalism, Regional Autonomy and Conflict), 8 (1): 5-26. [In June 2011 declared one of the ten best articles of the decade in this journal.] (with J. McGarry).
  6. 2007. “Analyzing Partition: Definition and Explanation.” Political Geography 26(8): 886-908
  7. 2007. “Iraq’s Constitution of 2005: Liberal Consociation as Political Prescription,” International Journal of Constitutional Law 5 (4).  [As of Dec 2010 most-cited article in the journal’s history.] (with J. McGarry)
  8. 2006.a “Consociational Theory, Northern Ireland’s Conflict and its Agreement: Part 1. What Consociationalists Can Learn from Northern Ireland,” Government & Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics, 41, 1: 43-63. (with J. McGarry); 
  9. 2006.b. "Part 2. What Critics of Consociation Can Learn from Northern Ireland,” Government & Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics, 41, 2: 249–277. (with J. McGarry).
  10. 2005. “Mission Accomplished? Looking Back at the IRA,” Field Day Review (March-April), 1,1: 216-46.
  11. 2005.  “Divisor Methods for Sequential Portfolio Allocation in Multi-Party Executive Bodies: Evidence from Northern Ireland and Denmark,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 49, No. 1 (January), pp. 198–211. (with B. Grofman and J. Elklit).
  12. 2004. “Stabilizing the Northern Ireland Agreement,” Political Quarterly, 75, 3 (July-September), 213-225. (with J. McGarry).
  13. 2002. “In Praise of Empires Past: Myths and Method of Kedourie’s Nationalism,” New Left Review  2nd series, 18 (Nov-Dec), 106-30.
  14. 2001. “An Iron Law of Nationalism and Federation?  A (neo-Diceyian) theory of the Necessity of a Federal Staatsvolk, and of Consociational Rescue. The 5th Ernest Gellner Memorial Lecture.” Nations and Nationalism 7 (3): 273-96.
  15. 2000. “Northern Irish Voters and the British-Irish Agreement: Foundations of a Stable Consociational Settlement?”  Political Quarterly, 71, 1 (January-March), 78-101. (with G. Evans)
  16. 1999. “The Nature of the British-Irish Agreement” New Left Review 233: 66-96.
  17. 1997 “On the Nature of Nationalism: A Critical Appraisal of Ernest Gellner's Writings on Nationalism.”  British Journal of Political Science 27 (2): 191-222.
  18. 1989. “The Limits to Coercive Consociationalism in Northern Ireland.” Political Studies 37 (4): 452-68.
  19. 1987. “The Anglo-Irish Agreement: Folly or Statecraft?” West European Politics 10 (1): 5-32.
  20. 1987. “British Farce, French Drama, and Tales of Two Cities: Reorganizations of Paris and London Governments, 1957-86.” Public Administration 65 (4): 367-89.
Courses Taught: 

O'Leary teaches regularly on The European Union, Power-Sharing in Deeply Divided Places, & The Government and Politics of Iraq & Sudan. Intermittently he teaches courses on Genocide & Ethnic Expulsions, Nationalism and National Self-Determination, and on National and Ethnic Politics.

  • Power-Sharing in Deeply Divided Places - Benjamin Franklin Seminar
  • The Government and Politics of Iraq and Sudan 1820-2010
  • The European Union: Arguments & Evidence
  • Comparing Genocides & Ethnic Expulsions 
Other Affiliations: 

Professor O'Leary spent 2009-2010 on secondment as  the Power Sharing Expert in the Standby Team of the Mediation Support Unit at the Dept of Political Affairs in the United Nations.

Supervised or Co-Supervised PhD Students:

Name (Year) Institution Topic Last Known Position
1. Woldemichael, Berhane (1985) LSE Decentralization in Sudan 1969-83 Consultant to the UN
2. Pareskevi Kaler-Christofilopoulou (1988) LSE Decentralization in Greece after the dictatorship Minister in Greek (PASOK) Government
3. Lynch, Peter (1994) LSE From Versailles to Maastricht: Nationalist and Regionalist parties and European Integration [produced a book from thesis] Senior Lecturer in Political Science, Stirling University, UK
4. McGrath, Michael (1995) LSE The Price of Faith: The Catholic Church and Catholic Schools in Northern Ireland [produced a book from thesis] Teacher and author
5. Mulé, Rosa (1996) LSE Governing Parties and Income Inequality in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada [produced a book from thesis] Senior Lecturer in Politics University of Warwick
6. O'Duffy, Brendan (1996) LSE Violent Politics: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Two Centuries of Political Violence in Ireland [produced a book from thesis] Senior Lecturer in Politics, Queen Mary, University of London
7. Papadoulis, Constantinos (1996) LSE National Skies in European Disguise: Air-transport Politics and Policy in the European Community Olympic Airways
8. Malakos, Apostolis (1996) LSE Tocqueville: The Theorist of Democratic Modernity Tenure track at Queen Mary & Westfield University of London before being conscripted by the Greek army
9. Staab, Andreas (1997) LSE Separation after Unification? The Crisis of National Identity in East Germany [produced a book from thesis] Founder and owner of an EU consultancy, author of a book on the EU
10. Innes, Abigail (1997) LSE The Division of Czechoslovakia [produced a book from thesis] Associate Professor in the Political Sociology of Central/Eastern Europe, European Institute, London School of Economics & Political Science
11. Youn, Miryang (1997) LSE Women in Two Nations and Four States: A Study of the Impact of Political Regimes and Culture and the Status of Women in the two Koreas and the two Germanies, 1945-1989 Senior Director of the Korean Ministry for National Unification (Women’s Section), Korea
12. Cavanaugh, Kathleen (1997) LSE Protracted Social Conflict in Northern Ireland Senior Lecturer International Law in the Faculty of Law, Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), National University of Ireland, Galway.
13. Tannam, Etain (1998) LSE Trespassing on Borders? The European Community and the Relationships between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. A test of Neo-functionalism. [produced a book from thesis] Assistant Professor in International Peace Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
14. Kissane, William (1998) LSE Establishing Democracy: A Comparative Analysis of the Genesis & Stabilization of Democracy in Independent Ireland, 1918-1937 [produced a book from thesis] Associate Professor of  Political Science, London School of Economics & Political Science
15. Totoricaguena, Gloria Pilar (1999) LSE Comparing the Basque Diaspora; Ethnonationalism, transnationalism and identity maintenance in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Peru, the USA and Uruguay [produced a book from thesis] The President of Transnational Initiatives consulting firm, and the former Director of Basque Global Initiatives, previously professor at Reno, Nevada, US
16. Wolff, Stefan (2000) LSE Managing Disputed Territories, External Minorities, and the Stability of Conflict Settlements [produced a book from thesis] Professor of International Security, University of Birmingham, UK, Editor of Ethnopolitics
17. Carbone, Giovanni (2001) LSE No party democracy? Political Organization Under Movement Democracy in Uganda, 1994-2000 Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Milan
18. Thorlakson, Lori (2001) LSE Federalism and Party Competition: A Comparative Analysis of Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and the United States Associate Professor, Jean Monnet Chair in European Politics, EU Center of Excellence, University of Alberta
19. Levy, Gal (2001) LSE Ethnicity and Education: Nation-building, State formation and the Construction of the Israeli Educational System Senior Lecturer, Open University, Israel
20. Adeney, Katharine (2002) LSE Federalism and Ethno-National Conflict Regulation in India and Pakistan [produced a book from thesis] Professor & Director of The Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham
21. Vourkiototis, Velis (2002) LSE Democracy and Human Development: A Critical Empirical Investigation Using Data from 123 Countries, 1970-1990 President Game Development Group, USA
22. Kerr, Michael (2003) LSE The Politics of Intransigence: A Comparative Analysis of Northern Ireland and Lebanon [produced a book from thesis] Professor of Conflict Studies and Director of the Middle East & Mediterranean Studies Programme and the Center for the Study of Divided Societies, King's College, London
23. Sussman, Gary (2004) LSE The referendum in F. W. De Klerk's war of Maneuver: An historical institutionalist account of the 1992 referendum in South Africa. Vice President, Public Affairs at Tel Aviv University, Israel
24. Deane, Shelley (2004) LSE Warring Factions - Northern Ireland & Israel/Palestine Assistant Professor Bowdoin College, Maine, US
25. Webb, Edward (2005) U Penn Secularization & Its Discontents (France, Turkey, Syria and Algeria) Assistant Professor of Political Science & International Studies, Dickinson College, PA, US
26. Mabry, Tristan (2007) U Penn Nationalism, Language and Islam: A Cross-regional Comparative Study of Muslim Minority Conflict Research Assistant Professor - Department of National Security Affairs,, Executive Director Joint Foreign Area Officer Program, Naval Postgraduate School Monterrey, CA, US
27. Saenz-Riviera, Sergio (2010) U Penn Centers and Border Towns: Tracing the Origins of Co-operation at the Mexico-United States Border 1521-1994 Assistant Professor in Mexico
28. Channer, ADR (2012) U Penn Defeat and Resurrection: A Political History of the Pan-Albanian Revolutionary Movement, 1912-2010  Working with Maplecroft, a global risk analytics firm in London, UK. Book forthcoming with I.B. Tauris. 
29. Stohler, Stefan (in progress) U Penn A comparative study of the judiciary and affirmative action in the US, South Africa and India Assistant Professor SUNY (Albany) from Fall of 2014
30. Bateman, David (2013) U Penn "Democratic Exclusion: Disenfranchisement in the United States, the United Kingdom and France."   Fellow at Princeton University; Assistant Professor in the Government Department at Cornell University from Fall 2014
31. Trager, Eric (2013) U Penn Opposition parties in Egypt under the Mubarak regime  Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
32. Rahman Ford (in progress) U Penn Affirmative Action, Constitutions & the Disabled and Disadvantaged: A Large N study

University of Pennsylvania
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Edward Mansfield Chair
Matthew Levendusky Graduate Chair
John Lapinski Undergraduate Chair