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How the 'Northern Irish' identity is understood and used by young people and politicians

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalPolitical Psychology
Early online date1 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Oct 2018


The conventional understanding of the nation within social psychology is as a category of people or “imagined community.” However, work within the discursive tradition shows that citizens tend to discuss nationhood in a variety of modes, including the use of nonhuman categories such as references to the physical landscape of the country. This article aims to give a more comprehensive overview of how young people understand the Northern Irish identity, a new and potentially inclusive national category in a divided society, and how politicians articulate it in rhetoric. In Study 1, students (N = 286) discussed this identity in 44 peer-led focus groups. Thematic analysis of their discussions shows four distinct ways in which it is constructed: as a distinctive people, as an identity claim, as a “hot” political project, and as a “cold” or banal indicator of place. In Study 2, Members of the Legislative Assembly at Stormont (N = 49) responded to open-ended questions about the Northern Irish identity. Each of the parties used different conceptualizations for rhetorical effect. These results give a deeper understanding of the multifaceted nature of national Identity and its ability to promote political agendas.

    Research areas

  • national identity, Northern Irish, banal nationalism, divided societies

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