ABSTRACT

Sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the north-east of the island of Ireland dates back at least as far as the seventeenth century. Although one of the effects of the partition of Ireland after the First World War was to entrench sectarian divisions, the long pre-dated partition and the clash of sub-state nationalisms that gave rise to the creation of two different jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. The creation of Northern Ireland as a separate political entity within the United Kingdom dates back to the 1920 Government of Ireland Act. It is more accurate to regard the peace process as underpinned by the one constant factor of conflict management by the British and Irish governments. Despite political polarisation and the non-functioning of the political institutions established under the Belfast Agreement for much of the time, the peace process itself remained in place. However, a number of scholars have identified a significant religious dimension to the conflict.