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Catholicism in Northern Ireland and the process of conflict

By Claire Mitchell

Abstract

It is a common misconception that religion in Northern Ireland is politically important only for Protestants, whereas for Catholics the causes of conflict are social, economic and political. Despite very high levels of religiosity amongst Catholics, faith is generally viewed as something located in the private sphere that does not spill over into the public realm. This paper challenges the assumption of the social insignifcance of Catholicism and urges re-examination of how the relationships between religion and politics are conceived and measured for this group. It argues that analysis must extend beyond linkages between theological beliefs and political preferences. In fact other dimensions of religion, such as its role in the construction of community and identity as well as its institutional influence, are much more useful in understanding its political significance. The paper concludes that when these dimensions of religion are examined, we find that Catholicism has been enormously important in the politics of conflict in Northern Ireland. It concludes that after the Good Friday Agreement, the political roles of Catholicism have changed somewhat, but have by no means disappeared

Topics: Catholicism, Northern Ireland, Religion, Conflict, Catholics--Religious identity--Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland--Religion, Social conflict--Northern Ireland
Publisher: University College Dublin. Institute for British-Irish Studies
Year: 2003
OAI identifier: oai:researchrepository.ucd.ie:10197/2189
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    Citations

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