Education for Citizenship Education and Social Justice in Northern Ireland

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Citizenship education is often focused on the symbols and rituals that, in a Durkheimian manner, provide bonds of connection within a national community (Durkheim and Lukes, 2013). How might this operate in a divided society, one in which the fault-lines of politics, nationality and religion over-determine one another? This is the challenge facing Northern Ireland, an area which carried an historical burden of conflict and division, including a recent period when political violence scarred the landscape for over a quarter century. Almost the same time period has now elapsed since the paramilitary ceasefires in 1994, but old divisions die hard, and although new shared political institutions have emerged, and have successfully navigated two electoral cycles, politics still has a strongly confessional/national character. When we add to this mix the fact that Northern Ireland has always operated with denominationally separate schools, then the challenge of formulating and implementing a citizenship education programme becomes even more marked. This chapter examines this experience, beginning with an outline of the historical and educational background to highlight some of the challenges that were being faced. The chapter then examines the genesis and development of the citizenship education programme, before providing an outline of its structure and form. The final part of the chapter reviews evidence on the impact of citizenship education in Northern Ireland and a number of critical perspectives on this and related educational measures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave International Handbook of Education for Citizenship and Social Justice
EditorsA Peterson, R Hattam, M Zembylas, J Arthur
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-51507-0
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2016


  • education
  • citizenship
  • social justice
  • northern ireland
  • rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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