The Book

  Book cover
Unionists, Loyalists, 
Conflict Transformation 
in Northern Ireland
by Lee A. Smithey

     Oxford Recipient of the  American Conference for Irish Studies' 
Donald Murphy Book Prize for Distinguished First Book 

About the Book:

Unionists, Loyalists, and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland (Oxford University Press) examines how unionists and loyalists contribute to an important and challenging cultural process of conflict transformation as they shape and re-shape their own collective identities and expressions of identity (such as parades, bonfires, and murals). 

Northern Ireland provides a valuable case study of a seemingly 
intractable conflict undergoing transformation. Lee Smithey offers a grassroots view of that transformation, through interviews and field research in the region, and provides essential models for how ethnic and communal-based conflicts can shift from violent confrontation toward multiculturalism and democratic cooperation. 

Smithey focuses particularly on Protestant unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland, who maintain varying degrees of commitment to the Protestant faith, the Crown, and British identity. He argues 
that mutually-opposed collective identities in ethnopolitical conflict can become less polarized as partisans adopt new conflict strategies and means of expressing identity. Thus, the close and recursive relationship between collective identity and collective action forms a crucial element of conflict transformation. Smithey closely examines attempts in Protestant / unionist / loyalist communities and organizations to develop more constructive means of pursuing political agendas, expressing collective identity, and improving community relations. Key leaders and activists have begun to reframe collective narratives and identities, diminishing out-group polarization and making community support possible for greater political and civic cooperation.

The book:
  • •Argues that in addition to the  important and much-studied political peace process, a much broader grassroots psychocultural transformation of polarized ethnic and political identities is necessary at the grassroots
  • •Contributes to a growing interest in ethnic identity change and continuity
Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Ethnic Identity Change and Conflict Transformation
  3. Protestant Unionists and Loyalists
  4. Mitigating Murals and Loyalist Cultural Innovation
  5. The Orange Order: Mitigating Parades, Public Relations, and Identity Change
  6. Heritage, Memory, and Identity Work
  7. Strategy, Pragmatism, and Public Relations
  8. Conclusion


Swarthmore College News and Information has posted a piece about the book on the college's website.

*  *  *
Unionists, Loyalists and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland has been awarded the 2012 Donald Murphy Book Prize for Distinguished First Book by the American Conference for Irish Studies, which will be meeting in New Orleans at Tulane University March 14-17.

*  *  *
View coverage of the book's launch at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on March 8, 2012.

Stormont launch

* * *
View photos and audio of the second book launch on March 12, 2012 at No Alibis Bookstore, following a seminar earlier in the day at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queens University. 

No Alibis bookstore launch

*  *  *
Many thanks to the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, who hosted a lecture on the book.

Dr. Jeffrey Murer

* * * 
The Irish School of Ecumenics (Trinity College, Belfast) hosted a lecture on the book as part of annual Community Relations Week activities in Northern Ireland.

Lee Smithey ISE 2012

For more information on these and other events, please visit the Events page on this site.  

Lee Smithey
Lee A. Smithey is Associate Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at Swarthmore College, located outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.  ... More on the author

Memolane  Twitter  

#ulctni on Twitter


"... an extrememly interesting read [this book] manages to move between theory and practice, while providing readers with the knowledge and understanding of the complex phenomena that constitute conflict transformation in a divided society." 

-- Jonny Byrne, Lecturer, School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, University of Ulster, in the Times Higher Education 

"The book avoids the temptation to romanticize the peace process and is hard-hitting and realistic about the prospects of conflict transformation amongst Unionists. The book makes a significant contribution to the new field of the sociology of peace processes."

---John D. Brewer, Professor of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of Aberdeen 

"In this book Lee Smithey does a terrific job analyzing how grassroots activists and social movements in Northern Ireland's Protestant community are transforming their relationship with Catholics in ways that reflect and promote a more or less peaceful coexistence in this once strife-ton region." 

---Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science, Bryn Mawr College 

"Lee Smithey's patient research and sophisticated analysis reveal innovative, if frequently incremental, moves toward less defensive identities and more constructive politics from a quarter often dismissed as relentlessly reactionary: the grassroots institutions and practices of Northern Ireland's Protestant unionist and loyalist communities." 

---Joe Liechty, Professor and Director of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies, and co-author of Moving Beyond Sectarianism: Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland 
Subpages (1): Reviews