The Macalester Review


Abstract: Social conflict has consumed Northern Ireland for centuries. The relationship between Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Loyalists has proved difficult to reconcile–current policy approaches have been unable to attain peace. This paper seeks to explore the gaps in policy created by ignoring the important distinction between the social identities Nationalists and Loyalists have created and which they continue to perpetuate. This paper examines Social identity theory in context of Northern Ireland and applies the psychology of disparate community identities to current policies and trends in Northern Ireland to suggest reasons for a lack of progress towards peace. Unfortunately, contemporary Northern Ireland does not fully address the divisive social identities that have existed for hundreds of years. Finally, this paper offers suggestions to incorporate social identities into future policymaking by offering three-pronged approach to a PEACE IV program including: Resettlement Intervention, Generational Development, and Individual Reconciliation. If policymakers in Northern Ireland are able to embrace Social identity theory and work through its constraints, they have an incredible opportunity to solve an issue that continues to plague this nation and prevent a spiral into another civilian warfare.