Healing past wounds with more than an elastic bandage– A small scale evaluation of attitudes and aspirations of contemporary Northern Irish Catholics

Breen, P. 2019. Healing past wounds with more than an elastic bandage– A small scale evaluation of attitudes and aspirations of contemporary Northern Irish Catholics. National Identities. 21 (2), pp. 151-169. doi:10.1080/14608944.2017.1397618

TitleHealing past wounds with more than an elastic bandage– A small scale evaluation of attitudes and aspirations of contemporary Northern Irish Catholics
TypeJournal article
AuthorsBreen, P.
Abstract

Arthur (1996, p. 1) suggests that literature on solutions to the Northern Irish “problem” could “span the entire circumference of the world” creating a situation that others label as further problematisation (Campbell, 1998; Vaughan-Williams, 2006). Despite such a range of literature, including the 1998 Belfast Agreement, Vaughan-Williams (ibid, p. 513) argues that “we are still unable to define the precise problem or how it might be solved.” When looking in from the outside, this appears to be “a particularly local problem” (Darby, 1990, p. 196), portrayed throughout much of the analysis as conflict between two diametrically opposed communities in a scenario where a “third space” (Rapp & Rhomberg, 2012, p. 470) has proven elusive. Even though recent research appeared to indicate a “society in transition” (ibid), the Northern Ireland Assembly election of March 2017 has seen Irish nationalism biting back to an effective 44% of the vote, having fallen to “a meagre 36%” in the previous election (Donnelly, 2017). With the mainstream Unionist parties attaining similar levels of support, this has served to reinforce a tradition of voting patterns existing almost since the very creation of the state, which Hughes (2013) labels as “headcountery.” Nagle (2012, p. 3) connects this to the fact that “religious ascription has typically been seen as coterminous with national identity” and Catholics see themselves as Irish rather than British. Much of the literature, aside from “problematisation” of the situation (Campbell, 1998; Vaughan-Williams, 2006) is also located in a school of “liberal thought” (ibid, p. 513) that rarely gives credence to Irish nationalist voices and aspirations. On account of such a gap in the literature, this small- scale research study has sought to access the voices of ordinary people within the nationalist community by means of a Mixed Methods survey. The goal was not to prioritise these voices over those of unionists or to reinforce a binary sense of identity that is part of the problem, but to find out what changes have occurred in terms of perspectives, aspirations, and sense of identity. The long term is to use the diverse findings of this study to facilitate a similar investigation into unionist perspectives in hope of finding common ground.

KeywordsNorthern Ireland; Northern Irish politics; Culture, language and identity; nationalism; unionism
JournalNational Identities
Journal citation21 (2), pp. 151-169
ISSN1460-8944
Year2019
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/14608944.2017.1397618
Publication dates
Published online07 Nov 2017
Published07 Nov 2017
Published in print2019

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