nitions of individual members in the formation of a group identity that excludes others based on the unique value system of the group.   Conflicts that often occur are the result of "peoples' desire that their group be positively valued and distinct from other groups."8  S.I.T. also explains the importance of "telling," in which the question "'What is he/she?' (i.e. Are you Green or are you Orange?) dominates encounters between strangers."9  Group identity thus assumes great importance because, as results suggest, "some children in Northern Ireland are capable of making ethnic discriminations based on first names by the age of seven years, while most children do not achieve this skill until age 11 or older."10  The point here is that children in Northern Ireland learn to distinguish their group and its members from out-groups at young ages in order to establish a positive image of their group.  In doing so, children begin to slide down the spiral of the politics of hate.

The Division of Northern Ireland into Two Distinct Political Interest Groups: Catholic/Nationalists and Protestant/Unionists

The political affiliation of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland is divided into two groups, Unionist and Nationalist, both of whom "claim the same piece of soil (i.e. Northern Ireland) as their own."11 Whether a person belongs to either group is determined by the heritage of the family into which they are born and are socialized. According to S.I.T., a family's group affiliation determines the political bias of the child that is learned at a young age and is reinforced by the high level of community polarization.   In either case, the family has a political ideology that is directly linked to its heritage of Irishness or Englishness and hence, the corresponding religious group.   The result is that out of the 1.5 million people in Northern Ireland, "one million are of Scottish or English descent.  They are mainly of the Protestant religion and regard themselves as 'British,' and, in political terms, they are 'Unionists', signifying their attachment to the Union with Britain."12   The remaining "half a million people in Northern Ireland are of Irish lineage and maintain close cultural and religious links with the rest of the island's three million population.  They tend to adhere to the Catholic religion, and aspire to a United Ireland.  In political terms they are 'Nationalists' or 'Republicans'."13

There is a direct correlation between religion and political ideology; however, political, and not religious doctrines, have protracted the conflict.  This is because while religious affiliation is used to distinguish group membership, it does not adequately explain the under

lying reasons for the creation and the persistence of in-groups and out-groups. S.I.T. suggests that this is done in order to determine: first, whether a person is a member of the oppressed or oppressor class and second, whether or not that person will be discriminated against.  Catholics discriminate against Protestants because of past injustices, and Protestants discriminate against Catholics to maintain their position of dominance. Unfortunately, as S.I.T. also explains, this practice is learned by children at young ages, from family and community members and eventually translates into a hatred of their rival group.

To explain why a conflict has developed between these two groups, it is necessary to examine the inherent political differences in their definitions of self.

Unionists regard themselves as custodians of an idealized vision of the 'British way of life' and British liberty, symbolized by the Crown and the Union between Britain and Northern Ireland, which they see as protecting them against destruction by an alien Catholic Irish state.14

Protestants in Northern Ireland see themselves maintaining the union between the North and Britain.  They want to maintain this union because they fear becoming the minority in an independent Irish State, thereby losing their dominant position, both politically and economically.   Protestants also fear Catholic retribution following unification because of their past discriminatory practices. Additionally, "Ulster Unionists argue that they are British rather than Irish, and that they therefore constitute part of a second nation in Ireland."15

Irish Nationalists argue that everyone in Ireland, including northern Protestants, belong to a single Irish nation and that a minority of this nation (i.e. Ulster Unionists) do not have a right to secede from the rest of the Irish nation.16

Unlike the Unionists, Irish Nationalists believe that by virtue of one's birth on the Emerald Isle, one automatically becomes Irish, regardless of religious or political affiliation.  Furthermore, Nationalists want unification of the North with the South. An example of Catholic political resistance in Northern Ireland can be seen in their refusal to participate in the governance of the Stormont Parliament, which was created in 1920, following partition.   Catholics did this in order to withhold legitimacy from both the partition and the governance of Northern Ireland by the British.  However, in the years following the creation of the Stormont Parliament, Catholics reversed their position and

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Charles Shivers - Northern Ireland - National Identity ... [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]