On the Issues Episode 56: Brendan O’Leary
My guest for this episode is Brendan O’Leary, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as a political and constitutional advisor to the United Nations, the European Union, the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, and the governments of the UK and Ireland. In this episode, we discuss Kurdish autonomy and the war in Iraq, and the effect of the civil war in Syria on Iraqi Kurdistan.
Brendan O’Leary is an Irish, European Union, and US citizen, and since 2003 has been the Lauder Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author, co-author, and co-editor of 26 books; and the author or co-author of hundreds of articles or chapters in peer-reviewed journals and university presses, encyclopedia articles, and numerous other forms of publication. His latest publications include a three-volume study called A Treatise on Northern Ireland, that will be published in April 2019 by Oxford University Press, and a research report entitled Northern Ireland and the UK’s Exit from the EU: What Do People Think? Evidence from Two Investigations: A Survey and a Deliberative Forum (PI: Garry, J., McNicholl, K., O’Leary, B., & Pow, J., Belfast, Queen’s University Belfast, 2018 sponsored by the UK’s Economic and Research Council.)
Professor O’Leary was the inaugural winner of the Juan Linz prize of the International Political Science Association for contributions to the study of multinational societies, federalism and power-sharing, and in 2016 he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy, principally because of his contributions to the field of power-sharing. In addition to his scholarly work, O’Leary has been a political and constitutional advisor to the United Nations, the European Union, the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, the Governments of the UK and Ireland, and to the British Labour Party (before and during the Irish peace process).
O’Leary was born in Cork, Ireland. His early childhood was mostly spent in Nigeria. He grew up between the ages 8 and 18 in Northern Ireland and the Sudan. He attended the Northern Irish grammar school, St MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower, 1969-76. He received the Irish Times/Trinity College Dublin all-Ireland best individual speaker prize in school debating in 1975, and the Joint Association of Classical Teachers prize for first place in Advanced level Ancient History in 1976. He won an open scholarship to Keble College Oxford in 1977, where he was tutored by Larry Siedentop, the scholar of Tocqueville and the European Union, and by the economist Paul Collier. O’Leary graduated with BA honors from the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1981, first class), and wrote his PhD thesis at the London School of Economics & Political Science. Supervised by the late Professor T.J. Nossiter, it was examined by Professors Ernest Gellner and Nicos Mouzelis. It won the Robert McKenzie Memorial Prize for the best PhD at LSE presented in 1988, and was subsequently published as The Asiatic Mode of Production: Oriental Despotism, Historical Materialism and Indian History, with a Foreword by the late Ernest Gellner. In 2001 this book was elected 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).
Between 1983 and 2003, O’Leary was on the faculty of the London School of Economics & Political Science, where he was successively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor of Political Science; the first elected head of the LSE Government Department (1998-2001); and an elected Academic Governor (2000-1). He has been a visiting professor of political science at Uppsala University, the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and at Queen’s University Belfast, and a Moore fellow at the National University of Ireland-Galway.
Brendan O’Leary was a political advisor to the British Labour Shadow Cabinet on Northern Ireland between 1987-8 and 1996-7, advising the late Kevin McNamara and the late Marjorie (“Mo”) Mowlam, shadow Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland. He advised Irish, British, and American ministers and officials, and the Irish-American Morrison delegation during the Northern Ireland peace process, appeared as an expert witness before the US Congress, and was a guest at the White House in 1994, 1995 and 1998. His work with John McGarry on police reform was singled out in the press for influencing the independent commission on police reform which reported in 1999.
O’Leary has been a constitutional advisor for the European Union and the United Nations in the promotion of the confederal and federal re-building of Somalia, and for the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development in consultancies on power-sharing in coalition governments in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, and in Nepal.
For the United Nations O’Leary was a contributing consultant to its 2004 United Nations Human Development Report on Culture and Liberty, co-edited by Amartya Sen. In 2009-2010 he 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 that capacity he had field experience in numerous conflict-sites, including in Sudan, South Sudan, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan.
Since 2003 O’Leary has regularly been 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); the draft Constitution of the Kurdistan Region (2005-); and in monitoring violations of the Constitution of Iraq by its federal government. He has also been an expert witness on Iraq and Kurdistan to branches of the US Government, and to the United Kingdom’s Iraq Commission.