Professor John Wolffe (OU) - Beyond the ‘dreary steeples’?
Reassessing the role of religion in Northern Ireland community divisions
This presentation will examine the assumption that although the Northern Ireland community divide has been ‘sectarian’, it has not been ‘religious’. It will summarise research both on Protestant-Catholic tensions in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and on the ways that ‘religion’ itself is understood in scholarly and popular discourse. Recent declines in churchgoing have paradoxically increased the potential for violent or confrontational actions to be accorded spurious ‘religious’ legitimacy. The consequent needs are both for creative initiatives by the churches, and for the cultivation of greater ‘religious literacy’ by the media and policy-makers, especially in relation to equality, commemoration/parading and educational matters.