Interpretations of national identity in post-conflict Northern Ireland: a comparison of different school settings

Andrea Furey, Caitlin Donnelly, Joanne Hughes, Danielle Blaylock

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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It is generally accepted that education has a significant role to play in any society transitioning from conflict to a more peaceful dispensation. Indeed, some have argued that the education system potentially represents the single most effective agent of social change with the capacity to bridge ethnic division in conflict affected countries. Despite the potential, educational policy makers grapple with the dilemma as to precisely how school systems can best facilitate this agenda. This paper thus attempts to shed light upon the dilemma by exploring pupil identity and associated intergroup attitudes across various school types in Northern Ireland. Five schools were selected for the study with each one representing a particular sector within the Northern Irish education system (maintained grammar, maintained secondary, controlled grammar, controlled secondary, integrated). This led to a total sample size of 265 pupils. The main findings show that children across separate Catholic, separate Protestant, and mixed Catholic and Protestant educational contexts construct and interpret identity differently. At the same time, our data suggests that no one school setting has supremacy in promoting social cohesion. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-150
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number2
Early online date28 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Apr 2017


  • Integrated education
  • separate education
  • identity
  • intergroup attitudes


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