Religion and national identity in Northern Ireland: A longitudinal perspective, 2001-2011
Shuttleworth, I. & Doebler, S. (2014) BSPS Annual Conference 2014, Univ of Winchester, 8 - 10 September 2014. [NILS]
Religion is important in Northern Ireland as a proxy for national identity and political allegiance. It is also significant for social policy because access to programmes and opportunities (for example in the labour market) is often monitored in terms of religion. In these circumstances the growth of the ‘nones’ who declare themselves to be neither Catholic or Protestant could be viewed as a positive since this group might be imagined as transcending old binary sectarian divisions. Equally, however, it could be viewed as a negative – as a nuisance category that muddies the waters for equality monitoring that based on the divide between Protestants and Catholics. The first part of the presentation therefore explores the demography of the ‘nones’ in Northern Ireland by considering the stability of religious identity between 2001 and 2011, and the individual and geographical factors that shape changes in identity, particularly for those who move into the ‘nones’ category. The second part of the presentation then considers the new question (in 2011) on national identity. This is a direct measure of national identity rather than a proxy. There is a special emphasis on the demographic and geographical characteristics of those who declared themselves to be ‘Northern Irish’ in 2011, a large category about which little is known.