Richard English*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article first defines some crucial terms. It then describes rival Irish national identities within the modern UK, organized rival nationalisms in Northern Ireland, and some related complexities of British national identity. It would be wrong to see Irish national identity and British unionist identity in Northern Ireland as mirror images of one another. They are not. The most forceful expression of rival Northern Irish national identities has been found in the respective organized nationalisms of nationalists and unionists. Organized Irish nationalism took a different form from that of unionism, the central dichotomy between its own rival wings being between two well-supported groups, one of which eschewed and the other of which long pursued political violence. The UK's contested legitimacy in Northern Ireland shows a version of the wider problems currently faced in the United Kingdom regarding selfdetermination, legitimacy, and separatism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of British Politics
PublisherOxford University Press/Hurst
ISBN (Electronic)9780191577062
ISBN (Print)9780199230952
Publication statusPublished - 02 Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press, 2014.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • British national identity
  • British unionist identity
  • Irish national identity
  • Irish nationalism
  • Legitimacy
  • Northern Ireland
  • Self-determination
  • Separatism
  • UK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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