Religion, ethnicity and colonialism as explanations of the Northern Ireland conflict

Clayton, P. (1998) Religion, ethnicity and colonialism as explanations of the Northern Ireland conflict. In: Miller, D. (ed.) Rethinking Northern Ireland: culture, ideology and colonialism. Longman, pp. 40-54. ISBN 0582302870




Northern Ireland is not only a problem because of the conflict and lack of political progress; it is also a problem about which theoretical questions can be asked and for which an explanatory framework can be sought. People have accordingly asked questions, and from a wide range of disciplines, including economics, history, political science, psychology, social psychology, social anthropology and sociology. Each of these, furthermore, incorporates different tendencies and schools of thought. So there is a wide range of explanations on offer (for works reviewing these see Lijphard 1975, Martin 1982 and Whyte 1990). What these largely have in common is that they are very different from popular notions that the conflict is ‘religious’, ‘tribal’, mere gang-warfare driven by ‘hard men’, or in other ways anachronistic, mindless or merely reprehensible. Given the well-known division between ‘Protestants’ and ‘Catholics’ (terms which will be retained here largely because they are widely used both within and beyond Northern Ireland), the idea that the conflict is religious deserves careful consideration. It is, however, very much a minority view among sociologists, and indeed participants, that the religious divide is both the cause of the conflict and the fount from which Protestant fears spring. The other two explanations examined here propose that the divisions are founded on, respectively, settler colonial history and ethnic difference. These are not mutually exclusive.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:religion, ethnicity, Northern Ireland, sociology
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Clayton, Dr Pamela
Authors: Clayton, P.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 1998 Longman
First Published:London
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with permission of the publisher

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