The politics of Ulster Unionism from the Anglo-Irish agreement to the Good Friday agreement

  • Christopher Farrington

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis builds an innovative and comprehensive picture of Unionist politics during the period of study. It examines areas that have been under-researched, such as local government, and it focusses specifically on the two mainstream Unionist parties: the DUP and UUP. It argues that the study of Unionism has paid too little attention to the influences that shape its political development and ideas and instead has attempted to explain Unionism by reference to its internal structure and divisions. The thesis is divided into two parts: the first seeks to place Unionist politics and ideas within their relevant wider context and the second examines the political divisions and development of Unionism in local government. It is argued that there has been substantial development by Unionist thinkers who have both critiqued nationalism and proposed a theory of Unionism which is a conscious reply to the negative stereotypes that exist about Unionism. I argue that not only is there a coherent Unionist ideology but it should be understood with reference to the broader political climate. Thus, events that have previously been shown to illustrate internal divisions are also shown to have been a rational response to the political environment. Internal divisions are deep and widespread but the key question for the study of Unionist politics is how these divisions are negotiated through the political parties. This is studied through an examination of Unionist politics at a local level in four district council areas - Ballymena, Craigavon, Fermanagh and Derry, varying in demographic and electoral balance between majority Unionist council to majority Nationalist council. The key difference was the way in which each party saw the balance between communal representation and civic responsibility. Unionist politics is thus presented as a complicated and dynamic picture. Key issues which shape the nature of Unionist politics are the internal divisions and debates within the Unionist community and their relationships and perceptions of the relationships with Nationalists.
Date of AwardDec 2003
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorRichard English (Supervisor) & Graham Walker (Supervisor)


  • Unionism
  • Good Friday Agreement
  • Politics
  • Anglo Irish
  • Ireland

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