Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Perception of identity becoming more pliable

I can’t find the actual report on Ark’s website, but both the BBC and Belfast Telegraph carry articles about research into attitudes to identity, carried out by QUB and the University of Limerick. The two pieces are more or less identical, but on this occasion I will leave the lazy journalism exposés to Bobballs. The most striking thing about this survey is that a rising number of people, around 25%, now consider themselves to be primarily Northern Irish, rather than British or Irish.

I personally am encouraged by the fact that the number of people who consider themselves both British and Irish is also increasing. A significant majority hold tight to an homogenous identity, but the importance of heterogeneous identities, the ‘nested identities’ which Scottish Unionist describes, is clearly asserting itself.

In common with other areas of the United Kingdom, the decline of the term ‘British’ as the primary descriptor by which people define their identity might be a source of some concern. As long as Britishness remains an important component of most people’s felt identity, throughout the United Kingdom, we can be relatively relaxed about stronger felt identities associated with the respective nations / regions.

In Northern Ireland, I would interpret the rise of ‘Northern Irish’ as a rejection of traditional community labels. It does not necessarily imply less engagement with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Certainly a more pliable attitude to identity, whereby a series of identities can be held in common, seems to be developing. That can only be positive.

No comments: