Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

History

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Brock Millman

Abstract

Northern Ireland is often portrayed in political, journalistic, and academic literature as having two main communities – Catholic/Irish/nationalist/republicans and Protestant/British/unionist/loyalists. This study argues that there is a Third Community in Northern Ireland that consists of political moderates, those who resist categorization into these two communities, and those who consistently defy traditional communal boundaries. Through an examination of primary and secondary sources, including political party literature, the press, web sites, poetry, short stories, music, and important academic studies, this community is depicted in great detail. It has a history and a mythology in addition to its own political ideals, symbolism, and rituals. Most importantly, the Third Community was a supportive force in the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and itself benefited from that journey to compromise. The Third Community has helped to ensure the continuation of a much more peaceful and progressive Northern Ireland in the years since the 1998 accord.

This study is comprehensive, dealing with politics and culture, rather than one or the other. It challenges the misconception that the Third Community is small and inferior to the two traditional majority communities in the quest for compromise. This study also builds on previous work by demonstrating that shared cultural elements can be and are used to create the Third Community, rather than just two divided and often hostile ethnic groups. Furthermore, despite traditional hostilities, people in Northern Ireland have a number of different identities - religion and nationality do not govern all people at all times. In the Third Community there is room for differences and for what people have in common. The Good Friday Agreement reflects this reality as it combines recognition of different identities with shared aims, such as peace and equality.

Finally, contrary to the emphasis on continued division and hostility that appear in other studies, this work argues that mindsets have changed in Northern Ireland. The post-Agreement era has seen genuine change in the Province as former enemies governed together within the framework of the GFA and militant dissidents are firmly rejected by society in general. The continuance of peace remains of greater importance than the violent defence of different traditions.


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