Whose ‘wee country’?: identity politics and sport in Northern Ireland

Katie/K Liston, Matthew Deighan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
371 Downloads (Pure)


This article responds to calls in this journal for increased attention to identity,culture, power and sport. It explores, for the first time, the lived realities ofidentity politics in a divided society, through interviews with 12 self-declaredIrish nationalists and republicans that represented Northern Ireland. Importantinsights are revealed into national eligibility decisions for either Irish team,motivated mainly by ‘shop window’ visibility and being seen as the best of apeer group. Political and sporting nationalisms were not necessarily analogous.A significant original finding is that the lived experiences of being closerto ‘the other’ resulted in an overall reinforcement rather than dissolution ofdifference. Visual and oral ‘national’ symbols such as flag, and especiallyanthem, delineated such difference, being symbolic walls of the mind. ‘Ourwee country’ was thus a polarised and polarising fantasy shield. The articleconcludes by reconsidering the role of sport as a lens through which toexamine identity and its’ place as part of the ‘problem’ and ‘solution’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-221
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Early online date2 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2019


  • Identity
  • habits
  • divided
  • sport
  • politics
  • Northern Ireland


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