Sport for peace in Northern Ireland? Civil society, change and constraint after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement

David Mitchell, Ian Somerville, Owen Hargie

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Using the case of Northern Ireland, this article examines how post-conflict transition impacts sports organisations which have traditionally underpinned societal division, and what factors facilitate or restrain such organisations fulfilling peacebuilding functions. The article identifies three peacebuilding functions of sport: in-group socialisation, promoting social cohesion, and symbolically representing new identities. Then, after outlining the sporting and political context in Northern Ireland, the article explores changes within the sporting environment stemming from the peace process as well as persistent socio-political barriers to sport’s capacity to encourage reconciliation and integration, especially symbolic contestation and territorial segregation. The analysis draws on a public attitudes survey (n = 1210) conducted by the authors as part of a major government-funded study. The findings demonstrate the potential of the three peacebuilding functions of sport, yet also, crucially, the constraints imposed by the distinct and divided political context. Avenues for further and comparative research are identified.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)981-996
    Number of pages16
    JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
    Issue number4
    Early online date6 Jul 2016
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2016


    • Sport
    • peacebuilding
    • Northern Ireland
    • civil society
    • civil conflict


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