Northern Ireland Culture Wars (part 2) – Social Change and the Culture Wars panel with Fiona Bloomer & John O’Doherty

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.

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psa culture wars bloomer‘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.

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  • Ní Dhuibhir

    These ‘culture wars’ seem to consist of deafening silence and active attempts at silencing others from our politicians, while the affluent and educated live like it’s 2013 regardless, and everyone else here suffers the consequences of a political system entirely devoted to rehashing the war that formed it.

  • Greenflag

    Well said Ni Dhuihir . If they ever build a new town in Northern Ireland they could name it Rehashtown 🙁 At the very least such a name could be claimed by both sides in the never ending story of the province .

  • Practically speaking, as long as unionists and nationalists regard themselves as separate communities or nationalities, it isn’t a kulturkamp because a kulturkamp is a struggle within one culture to control that culture. So things about language and naming aren’t really part of a kulturkamp. Although they might be part of a kulturenkamp or struggle between cultures. But a struggle within unionism between the DUP and NI21 about the future of unionism is a kulturkamp or one between those who see themselves as Irish (or British) and those who see themselves as Northern Irish is as well.