Richard English

in The Oxford Handbook of British Politics

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780199230952
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations


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This article first defines some crucial terms. It then describes rival Irish national identities within the modern UK, organized rival nationalisms in Northern Ireland, and some related complexities of British national identity. It would be wrong to see Irish national identity and British unionist identity in Northern Ireland as mirror images of one another. They are not. The most forceful expression of rival Northern Irish national identities has been found in the respective organized nationalisms of nationalists and unionists. Organized Irish nationalism took a different form from that of unionism, the central dichotomy between its own rival wings being between two well-supported groups, one of which eschewed and the other of which long pursued political violence. The UK's contested legitimacy in Northern Ireland shows a version of the wider problems currently faced in the United Kingdom regarding self-determination, legitimacy, and separatism.

Keywords: Northern Ireland; UK; British national identity; Irish national identity; British unionist identity; Irish nationalism; self-determination; legitimacy; separatism

Article.  8695 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; UK Politics

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