The second of six posts shared by the organisers of a symposium exploring the “Northern Ireland Culture Wars” on Friday 22 November at the University of Ulster, Belfast.
– – –
‘Culture wars’ have been a persistent feature of public debate in many Western states since the 1960s including the US and the UK. The ‘frontlines’ for the culture wars have usually been defined by groups and individuals promoting both traditionalist/conservative or progressive/liberal values and ideals.
Debates between these groups have focused on a range of cultural, social and political issues including abortion and euthanasia, climate change, LGBT rights, stem-cell research, parenting and education.
Debates about culture in Northern Ireland have sometimes excluded a focused examination at social change, despite the fact that issues such as gay marriage, access to abortion, and recent discussions about the current health minister’s blood transfusion policy, are leading to increasingly polarised debate within Northern Ireland.
The nature and tone of culture wars throughout the world are often confrontational, with proponents within key religious, political and cultural institutions increasingly questioning the neutrality of the state, public institutions and policy development and implementation. Northern Ireland is no different, and this panel sought to explore culture wars regarding abortion/reproductive rights and gay marriage in the region.
Fiona Bloomer is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Ulster. She has published widely on issues concerning abortion law and policy in the region, as well as community relations. In this presentation she discusses the impact of the opening of the Marie-Stopes International Clinic on political discourse on abortion in Northern Ireland.
John O’Doherty is Director of LGBT advocacy group The Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland and the Chairman of Marriage Equality NI. In his presentation he discusses issues connected to equal marriage, but also critiques the current political system in Northern Ireland in protecting minorities.