Neither/Nor: The rejection of Unionist and Nationalist identities in post-Agreement Northern Ireland

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Since 2006, according to the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, the largest portion of people in Northern Ireland identify themselves not as Unionist nor Nationalist but as Neither. This fact is difficult to tally with the patterns of polarised election results and the narratives of a ‘culture war’ that dominate most analyses of contemporary Northern Ireland. This article examines the existence of this large portion of the population in Northern Ireland who reject the identities upon which the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement is centred. We find that those identifying as neither Unionist nor Nationalist are predominantly female, they come from all religious backgrounds, all age groups, and both British and Irish national identities. The majority of those who identify as Neither appear to do so as a statement of rejection of what is on offer from the political parties in Northern Ireland; rather than supporting a centrist party, they support no party at all. The article concludes that the 1998 Agreement has created the conditions for a growing number of people to identify as neither Unionist nor Nationalist, but at the same time it makes the emergence of any strong alternative, ‘third way’ type of politics difficult to envisage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-155
JournalCapital and Class
Issue number1
Early online date13 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2019


  • 1998 Agreement
  • identity
  • apathy
  • Northern Ireland


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