Religion, Identity and Conflict in Ireland

The troubles in Northern Ireland have been widely publicised over the years. The human cost of the conflict alone has been considerable - over 3,600 people were reported to have lost their lives and as many as 50,000 people to have been physically maimed or injured, with countless others suffering severe psychological damage. During the period of the troubles numerous unsuccessful attempts were made to find a peaceful settlement. Finally on 10 April 1998 a solution was found and The Good Friday Agreement helped to bring about the restoration of self-government to Northern Ireland.


Challenging cultural traditions

Through original research, covering many centuries, Professor Marianne Elliott has investigated the historical development of different cultural traditions and hostile identities in Ireland. In particular, her research has shown how choices made by political and religious leaders in the past underpinned the Troubles experienced in Northern Ireland.

By challenging 'origin-myths', Marianne's research shows how heightened historical understanding can aid the processes of peace-building and reconciliation.


Covering a period of nearly 2,000 years, Marianne's monograph on 'The Catholics of Ulster' (2000) examined a community which had been consistently neglected in histories of Ireland and of Irish Catholicism. Biographies of Wolfe Tone (1989, 2012) and Robert Emmet (2003) tackled the legends surrounding the key founders of Irish republican nationalism.

The edited volume, 'The Long Road to Peace in Northern Ireland' (2002, 2007), grew out of a series of Peace Lectures given at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies between 1996 and 2000. Instigated by Lord Owen, the series was intended as a means for those involved in peace negotiations, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, to share their insights and experiences with a wider audience. Marianne's own contribution to the volume drew on the findings of the Opsahl Commission, in which she participated, to argue that there was “a greater willingness than ever before” among the people of Northern Ireland to admit and explore the prejudices which have divided them.


Through engagement with community organisations such as the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, through dialogue with religious leaders and prominent peace campaigners, and through vigorous engagement in public discussion and media debate, the research conducted at Liverpool has made a tangible contribution to the processes of peace-building and reconciliation as well as heightening public understanding of Irish history.

As one of Ireland’s best-known public historians, Marianne is regularly invited to contribute to media debates on history, identity and conflict. Television and radio producers, along with print journalists, frequently draw on the findings of her research.

In 2011, Marianne was one of the central contributors to 'The Story of Ireland' a major, five-part television series, co-produced by the BBC and RTE. The BBC book, The Story of Ireland (2011), drew extensively and directly on her research. Media interest in the project has thus afforded many opportunities to communicate the research to a broad range of audiences, informing public debate and increasing popular understanding of Irish history, identity and culture.

In 2000 Marianne was awarded an OBE for services to Irish Studies and the Northern Ireland peace process and in 2002 was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

Religion, Identity and Conflict in Northern Ireland was undertaken by Marianne when she was Director of the Institute and held the Blair Chair Professorship. Marianne retired and stepped down from her Professorship at the end of the 2014-15 Academic Session. She still holds a post with us as Honorary Research Professor at the Institute.

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