Perceptions of Irish Religious History Among Community Activists in Northern Ireland, 2010–2013

Wolffe, John (2017). Perceptions of Irish Religious History Among Community Activists in Northern Ireland, 2010–2013. In: Hill, Jacqueline and Lyons, Mary Ann eds. Representing Irish Religious Histories: Historiography, Ideology and Practice. Histories of the Sacred and Secular, 1700-2000. Palgrave McMillan, pp. 261–274.



Whereas academic analysis of the role of memory in Irish history and culture has tended to emphasise its polarising and divisive effect, this chapter assesses the potential for history as a resource for reconciliation between divided communities. It analyses a project led by the Open University in conjunction with the Institute for Conflict Research, which conducted about seventy interviews with a mixed set of Catholics and Protestants, men and women, from Northern Ireland, many of whom were in the forty-to-sixty age group. Some were church-goers, others were not. In general respondents, especially Catholics, were not particularly preoccupied with the distant past, although for some the more recent and personally-experienced traumas of the ‘Troubles’ still evoked strong feelings. Where respondents did take an interest in events outside living memory, they were often quite critical of the received mythologies of both nationalist and Orange traditions, and appreciated the importance of understanding historical events in their context. Hence, especially in the context of the ongoing ‘decade of centenaries’ there is potential for exploration of a shared past to contribute to the development of a ‘shared future’.

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