Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Conflict in Northern Ireland

Neil Ferguson, Shelley McKeown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


The conflict in Northern Ireland, known colloquially as the ‘Troubles’, is often understood as a religious war but in fact is underpinned by competing religious, political, and national ideologies, often dichotomised into those who wish Northern Ireland to reunify with Ireland and those who wish it to remain part of the United Kingdom. These ideologies are bound up in a series of social identities that are represented by the Protestant and Catholic communities. In this chapter, we trace the relationship between identity, conflict, and peace in Northern Ireland from the emergence of the ‘Troubles’ up until and following the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Peace Agreement. Specifically, we cover four key themes that underlie much of the work on social identity in Northern Ireland: (a) the prevalence of social categorisation, identification, and comparison strategies; (b) the role of identity in conflict; (c) the relationship between stress, coping, and identity; and (d) the role of intergroup contact in promoting identity for peace. In doing so, we argue that whilst identity lies at the root of the Northern Irish conflict, it also presents important exciting opportunities for peace.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Peace and Conflict Through Social Identity Theory
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Global Perspectives
EditorsShelley McKeown, Reeshma Haji, Neil Ferguson
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9783319298696
ISBN (Print)9783319298672
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePeace Psychology Book Series
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISSN (Print)2197-5779


  • Social identity
  • Peace
  • Conflict
  • Northern Ireland


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