The fourth 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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Cultural contestation has been the inevitable outworking of the parking of the constitutional question in Northern Ireland. This has significant implications for how political parties use culture as a means of pursuing their ideological aims and placating their support bases.
Jon Tonge’s presentation on the unionist party politics of culture argues that despite the on-going, highly visible, battles over expressions of traditional unionist culture and identity, the clash between moral conservatives and social liberals could represent a greater challenge for politicians in Northern Ireland in the future.
Jon Tonge is Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool. He has written widely on Northern Ireland and most recently is co-author of the forthcoming book Inside the Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power (Oxford, 2014).
Cultural contestation in Northern Ireland is not merely played out between nationalists and unionists, social liberals and moral conservatives. There is also a great deal of cultural contestation occurring within groups. Marisa McGlinchey explored the internal debates about what constitutes legitimate republican culture between Sinn Féin and their former colleagues in dissident republican circles demonstrates.
Marisa McGlinchey is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Community Cohesion at Coventry University. She is currently working on an ESRC-funded study on the ideology, strategies and organising principles of dissident Irish republicanism.
The final presentation by Gavin Hart and Catherine McGlynn considered the impact of on-going culture wars on the increasing numbers of people from minority ethnic groups who have made Northern Ireland their home since the onset of the peace process (and particularly post-EU enlargement in 2004). Hart and McGlynn explored the party discourses on multiculturalism, and also how minority ethnic groups are occasionally used as proxies in on-going disputes between nationalists and unionists over issues such as language rights in contemporary Northern Ireland.
Gavin Hart is a PhD researcher at the University of Huddersfield. His research examines party discourses about multiculturalism in Northern Ireland. Catherine McGlynn is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Huddersfield. She has published extensively on politics and identity in Northern Ireland.