Compare and contrast the ideologies of Nationalism and Unionism in Northern Ireland politics.

Essay by neddy96University, Bachelor'sA-, March 2006

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The ideologies of Nationalism and Unionism in Northern Irish politics have generated almost all of the conflict and violence that has risen out of the troubled nation over the last century. The ideas advocated by the two ideologies find themselves at great conflict with one another; Unionists support the inclusion of Northern Ireland as part of the UK while Nationalists argue for an independent unified Ireland. The fact that the two ideologies coincide with opposing religious thought greatly exacerbates the conflict. Rather than concentrating on a specific time period, this essay will give a general overview of the ideologies in order to demonstrate the way in which they have evolved since their emergence, as well as a discussion of the ideologies of the political parties and organisations involved with both Nationalism and Unionism.

Irish Nationalists oppose the division of Ireland and want to see Northern Ireland become part of the Irish Republic.

An overwhelmingly Catholic movement, Nationalists are the minority in Northern Ireland. They often feel disadvantaged and believe themselves to be the subjects of political, psychological and economic discrimination (Connolly 2004:online). Nationalists have often resorted to violence as a means of achieving their ambitions through such groups as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish Volunteers, although other Nationalist groups such as the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) are very much against this approach, opting for politics as a means of change. Irish Nationalism has been interpreted both as a resistance to the British and as an 'ideological cover for Catholic supremacism and anti-Protestantism' (Ruane & Todd 1998:55).

In the 1880's Ireland saw the emergence of the movement for Catholic emancipation; if viewed from within its religious context, the movement could be interpreted as first stirrings of Nationalism. The Nationalist movement prior to this was not based...