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Understanding anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland

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Abstract

Anti-Catholicism is part of the dynamics of Northern Ireland's conflict and is critical to the self-defining identity of certain Protestants. However, anti-Catholicism is as much a sociological process as a theological dispute about doctrine. It was given a Scriptural underpinning in the history of Protestant-Catholic relations in Ireland, and wider British-Irish relations, in order to reinforce social divisions between the religious communities and to offer a deterministic belief system to justify them. This article examines the socio-economic and political processes that have led to theology being used in social closure and stratification. It describes the various forms of contemporary anti-Catholicism, and highlights two further sociological features of the process, the common-sense reasoning process which reproduces it and how, in its language, it operates as a `discursive formation'.
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... Without downplaying its fundamentally political nature, it is possible to identify sectarian hatred as a significant component of the ethno-nation- alist violence that lasted in Northern Ireland for over forty years and was termed euphemistically "The Troubles." Brewer and Higgins (1998) iden- tify the ways in which the state of Northern Ireland was constructed to ensure the hegemony of the majority Protestant Unionist population through the Partition of the island into two states in 1921 (Hughes 1998). There is a further sub-group within this majority, loyalists, whose loyalty to the Brit- ish crown is conditional and whose membership is predominantly working- class and more closely associated with militancy. ...
... There is a further sub-group within this majority, loyalists, whose loyalty to the Brit- ish crown is conditional and whose membership is predominantly working- class and more closely associated with militancy. Within the new Northern Irish state, anti-Catholicism and anti-Irishness became central defining ten- ets (Brewer and Higgins 1998). These were institutionalized in discrimina- tion against the minority population, for example, in the allocation of economic resources, access to political representation, the deployment of state security forces, and control on the representation of Irish identity: hatred made systemic. ...
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... Without downplaying its fundamentally political nature, it is possible to identify sectarian hatred as a significant component of the ethno-nationalist violence that lasted in Northern Ireland for over forty years and was termed euphemistically "The Troubles." Brewer and Higgins (1998) identify the ways in which the state of Northern Ireland was constructed to ensure the hegemony of the majority Protestant Unionist population through the Partition of the island into two states in 1921 (Hughes 1998). There is a further sub-group within this majority, loyalists, whose loyalty to the British crown is conditional and whose membership is predominantly workingclass and more closely associated with militancy. ...
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... As a result, Evangelical Anglicans sought to protect their children by firmly ensconcing them within their anti-Catholic Protestant subculture. While the historiography relating to British anti-Catholicism is vast and sophisticated, 3 historians have thus far paid relatively little attention to how the ideology was successfully transmitted between generations. In fact, at least in Britain, children did not always simply absorb anti-Catholicism by osmosis through contact with zealous adults. ...
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