Reconciliation through Dealing with the Past? Communicating about how Presbyterians Responded to the Troubles

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper explores my experience of communicating about religion during an action research project in partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI). The project was conceived by PCI as a way to gather stories of how ‘ordinary’ Presbyterians experienced the Troubles and how they perceived their church’s response to the conflict. Its aims have been to reflect on what Presbyterians did well and what they failed to do, identifying lessons that can contribute to reconciliation and dealing with the past. During 2017, 122 people were interviewed, including ministers, victims, security forces, paramilitary ex-combatants, emergency responders and health workers, grassroots peacemakers, politicians, people who left Presbyterianism, and critical friends from outside the denomination. Between February-May 2019 I will be working with a facilitator and six focus groups to create training manuals based on the research: one for congregations and one for trainee ministers at PCI’s seminary. Participants in the focus groups will be presented with the results of the research, discuss it, and help shape the educational resources. In this paper I will reflect on communicating about religion and the Troubles on four levels: the wider PCI, which has been suspicious of academic research on religion; interview participants; focus group participants; and with a wider, popular audience through a forthcoming book. While the ongoing nature of the research makes it difficult to draw final conclusions, I will identify the main challenges for communicating this research to diverse audiences in a Northern Ireland that remains deeply divided along religious lines.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventBritish Sociological Association: Sociology of Religion Subgroup Annual Meeting - University of Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 09 Jul 201911 Jul 2019


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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