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Is Religion the Source of Conflict in Northern Ireland? Discuss.

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110SOC232 Sociology of Conflict in Northern Ireland. Tutor: Prof. Bernadette Hayes Roisin Davis 14857022. Due date: 19/11/04 Is Religion the Source of Conflict in Northern Ireland? Discuss. 'Religion, by contrast [with class], often raises issues based upon a non-bargainable absolute value...the history of the Roman Catholic church and of various protestant denominations illustrates the impossibility of compromise when transcendental and worldly values are in conflict' - Richard Rose This essay will assess the role of religion in Northern Ireland within a sociological perspective, examining the extent to which religion may be seen as one of the primary elements in motivating sociopolitical antagonism and extending the continued discord. 'Religion' has thus acted as a stimulus to a perpetuating factor in the conflict in Northern Ireland. The conflict has been mediated through a linguistic shorthand which places 'religion' at the core of the meaning systems within which people have lived their lives throughout the history of the conflict. This terminology has been used to bifurcate as well as identify the two communities that have been engaged in strife. In an interpretation of the significance of the function of religion as an agent of conflict in Northern Ireland, it is necessary to situate the issue within a wider historical framework, as the province's turbulent history reveals much of the religious bigotry and strife that has characterised the nature of its two communities for so long. ...read more.


It can be argued that this link between religion and political partisanship has been attached to and employed by the Unionist cause for centuries as a means of agitating popular opinion against the Roman Catholic church, using fears of papist control and domination as well as religious cultural difference to incite conflict and fuel antagonisms. In his book 'Divided Ulster' , published at a time of heightened sectarian violence, Liam De Paor equates the use of religion as a political and hyperbolic means to mask a British and Unionist political agenda "It was important for the continuance of Unionist rule in Northern Ireland that it should be virtually totalitarian, in that control should extend to every aspect of political and social life...It was important, and has always been a main object of the Unionist policy of control, to keep the labour movement in the industrialised north-east from breaking away, and for this it was necessary to mask Tory policies and show them in another guise: Protestantism" From a marxist perspective, this view can be identified with the belief that religion, like all ideology, reflects an axiom, but that it is inverted, obscuring the distress and and oppression that is produced by the capitalist system, and instead given a religious form. ...read more.


It is assumed that religion in Northern Ireland is also a mechanism of maintaining as well as reinforcing social boundaries by facilitating segregation of education, as well as continued endogamy within the two communities. Durkheim, in his study "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life" argued that religion symbolically embodies society itself, and it seems that Northern Ireland as an example of religious strife, constitutes many variants of the problems posed by religion as part of a wider fabric of discord. Religion has been instrumental in both the incitement and perpetuation of division in Northern Ireland, however, the issue must be placed within a comprehensive framework of analysis in a sociological examination of conflict in the region. In conclusion, it must be seen that both Ethnonationalist explanations as well as the importance of external factors at work, including British control within the province must be incorporated into any valid evaluation of the roots of conflict in Northern Ireland. Central Socioeconomic criterion also provides a necessary consideration in assessing the struggle. Religion cannot be seen as the primary source of conflict in Northern Ireland, but rather as a factor in stimulating intense division within a broader frame of reference which accounts for historical allegiances and clashes as well as Unionist and Nationalist political objectives. Religious institutions can be identified as playing an elemental role in both creating and prolonging 'the troubles' but responsibility must likewise lie with those institutions which can be seen as political and cultural. ...read more.

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