Whose 'Wee Country'?: Identity politics and sport in Northern Ireland

Katie/K Liston, Matthew Deighan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper responds to Hunter’s (2003) call for increased attention to identity, culture, power and sport. It explores, for the first time, the lived realities of identity politics in a divided society, through interviews with 12 self-declared Irish nationalists and republicans that represented Northern Ireland. Important insights are revealed into national eligibility decisions for either Irish team, motivated mainly by ‘shop window’ visibility and being seen as the best of a peer group. Political and sporting nationalisms were not necessarily analogous. A significant original finding is that the lived experiences of being closer to ‘the other’ resulted in an overall reinforcement rather than dissolution of difference. Visual and oral ‘national’ symbols such as flag, and especially anthem, delineated such difference, being symbolic walls of the mind. ‘Our wee country’ was thus a polarised and polarising fantasy shield. The paper concludes by reconsidering the role of sport as a lens through which to examine identity and its’ place as part of the ‘problem’ and ‘solution’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherFootball Collective
Number of pages12
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Oct 2017
EventFootball, Politics and Popular Culture - University of Limerick
Duration: 11 Oct 2017 → …


ConferenceFootball, Politics and Popular Culture
Period11/10/17 → …


  • sport
  • identity
  • Northern Ireland
  • politics
  • football
  • wee country


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