The Orange and the Green: National and Religious Identity of Young Adults in Northern Ireland

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The Ohio State University

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Northern Ireland has traditionally housed a discordant mix of those that identify as Irish Catholic and those that consider themselves British Protestant. After a thirty-year period of political and ethnic violence known as the Troubles, these two groups came to peace terms in 1998. Yet, a sense of distinction between Irish Catholics and British Protestants remains in this society today. Research indicates that identity is changing in Northern Ireland in both kind and numbers, and individuals now form identity in a climate vastly different than that of their parents. While there is a wealth of research on the general population and youth in Northern Ireland, little qualitative focus has been given to young adults in the region, particularly in religion. My primary research questions are, 1) How do young adults in Northern Ireland identify religiously and nationally? and 2) How do they form this identity?. Using a social identity perspective, sixteen qualitative, in-depth interviews were conducted in Belfast, Northern Ireland with those ages 18-35. Structured questions were asked to all participants, designed to elicit narratives about the nature and formation of national and religious identities. Results indicate that while these two identities were previously nearly synonymous, young adults in Northern Ireland today disassociate with a religious identity yet retain a national identity. Furthermore, young adults categorize society by level of tolerance, and form national and religious identity from parental influence and geographic upbringing. Through this research, I hope to present a more accurate portrayal of the current religious and national climate in Northern Ireland and the evolution of identity for young adults in this area.



identity, religion, nationality, Northern Ireland, young adults, social identity