Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland by Máiréad Nic Craith (auth.)

By Máiréad Nic Craith (auth.)

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As with the two sides in a soccer match, the two ethnic groups attack and defend different goals and they wear different colours. ’ Sometimes politicians in Northern Ireland take occasion to stress their similarities, although such statements may offend rather than soothe, as could apply to Nesbitt’s (2001, p. 6) commentary on the shared ‘AngloIrish culture’ of the region: ‘there is more in common between the two main islands than there is division between us. We use the same first language, are joint heirs to a rich Anglo-Irish culture, share many customs and practices, are accessed by the same media, drive on the same side of the road and have a similar climate which impacts upon many aspects of life.

These unionists affirm their commitment to the principle of citizenship rather than nationality. They regard their Britishness as a statement of citizenship rather than ethnicity and they can be Ulster-Irish, Ulster-Scottish, British and so on (Aughey 1995a, p. 12). They consider themselves part of an international tradition and adopt a liberal philosophy, which is also the official ideology of the British state. ‘Liberal Unionism’ is the term given by Porter (1996) to this ideology and it is not necessarily confined to Protestants.

While cultural nationalists endorse a sense of culture in all sectors, political nationalists regard public space as ethnically neutral. This is despite the fact that a sense of belonging to a particular nation-state is often achieved through the homogenization of diverse cultures. In a civic state such as Britain, the majority culture is hardly conceived in cultural terms. The ethnic ties of the majority are legitimated as ‘civic’ ones in what Michael Billig (1995) describes as the naturalization of one’s own nationalism.

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