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Religious and Ethnonational Identification and Political Violence

Lowe, RD and Muldoon, OT (2010) Religious and Ethnonational Identification and Political Violence. Ethnopolitics, 9. ISSN 1744-9057

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Abstract

Religious and national identification are often elided when describing the Troubles in Northern Ireland: Catholicism with Irishness and Protestantism with Britishness. However, these categories do not coincide completely, and a third national identity label ‘Northern Irish’ has recently been seen to emerge, with some respondents from both major religious groupings claiming this identity. A survey study of residents in Northern Ireland (n = 359) examined religious and national identification using a scale of collective self-esteem. This measure could be described as evaluating the relative strength or thickness of the identities across the various expected (British Protestant; Catholic Irish), unexpected (Protestant Irish; Catholic British) and emerging (Protestant and Catholic Northern Irish) national and religious combinations. Alongside these measures, respondents were sampled in wards that had historically high levels of political violence and in wards matched for socio-economic status and urbanization but with historically low levels of violence. The findings suggest that the relationship between national and religious identification in Northern Ireland is influenced by the sampling based on geographical experience of violence and that unexpected identity combinations and weaker patterns of identification are evident among participants in those areas with the least experience of violence.

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