13 May: ‘National Identity’ Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series

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“Promoting evidence-led policy and law-making within Northern Ireland” – that is the underlying aim of the Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS).  KESS is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, formally partnering a legislative arm of government – the Assembly – with academia.  Aiming to encourage debate and improve understanding, KESS provides a forum to present and disseminate research findings in a straightforward format, across the Programme for Government; making those findings easily accessible to decision-makers such as MLAs and Assembly committees, as well as the wider public sector.

KESS is jointly delivered by the Research and Information Service of the Assembly (RaISe), in partnership with all three universities located in Northern Ireland (NI) – the Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB – co-founder in 2011), Ulster University (Ulster – in 2012) and the Open University (OU – in 2013).

The Series presents networking opportunities, attracting a broad spectrum of attendees.  These include: MLAs and their staff; Assembly staff; public and private sector employees; academics; voluntary and community groups; and, members of the public.

Please note the upcoming series will start in November 2014 and run until June 2015.

Seminars are free and are held on Wednesdays from 5 November 2014 through 24 June 2015.  Each seminar starts at 1.30pm in The Long Gallery.

To view the current Programme, as well as Policy Briefings, power point presentations and video clips relating to previous years, please refer to:


The next seminar will be on Wednesday 13 May, in the Long Gallery of Parliament Buildings at 1.30pm. 

Details are as follows:

National Identity

Mr John Garry (QUB) and Mr Kevin McNicholl (QUB) – Understanding the ‘Northern Irish’ Identity This presentation outlines key findings of research that used census and survey data to examine the ‘Northern Irish’ identity.  The presentation first provides a demographic profile of Northern Irish identifiers: are they different from ‘Irish’ and ‘British’ identifiers in terms of gender, age, social class, educational qualifications and religious background? Second, it focuses on attitudinal factors: are Northern Irish identifiers notably moderate or centrist in their political beliefs? Third, it focuses on behavioural factors: are Northern Irish identifiers particularly likely to engage in ‘cross community’ contact and activities? How has Northern Irish identity (and associated demographic, attitudinal and behavioural profiles) changed over time?  Linking the analysis to Priority 4 of the Executive’s Programme for Government, the presentation assesses the extent to which the emerging Northern Irish identity may enhance efforts in ‘building a strong and shared community’. Is ‘Northern Irish’ a genuinely and meaningfully distinct identity associated with shared values and behaviour and potentially a shared community? Or, is ‘Northern Irish’ identity simply another way of expressing traditional identities, with substantial differences between ‘Northern Irish’ Catholics and ‘Northern Irish’ Protestants? The findings shed light on the relationship between shared identity and shared community.

Dr Ian Shuttleworth (QUB) – Religion and National Identity in Northern Ireland: A Longitudinal Perspective 2001-2011 Religious denomination is a key element in understanding Northern Ireland society and politics, as it is often equated with national identity and voting intentions.  It is also significant in informing debates about equality and resource allocation.  Usually it is understood as a two-group ‘green and orange’ issue – Protestants/Unionists and Roman Catholics/Irish Nationalists.  However, the 2011 Census showed that there was an appreciable number of ‘nones’ and ‘not stateds’. Moreover, in 2011, there was also a sizeable group who reported a Northern Ireland identity.  The ‘nones’, ‘not stateds’ and Northern Irish do not appear to fall easily into the ‘green and orange’ categories and are little understood.  The presentation therefore explores the social and demographic backgrounds of the ‘nones’, the ‘not stateds’ and the Northern Irish in 2011 and relates this to their individual background and where they lived in 2001.  It examines who changed religious denomination between 2001 and 2011, and focusses on the religious affiliation in 2001 of those who reported they were ‘none’ or refused to state a religion in 2011.  It also answers questions about whether those who became ‘nones’ or ‘not stateds’ by 2011 tended to be better-off and more residentially mobile than those who reported the same denomination in 2001 and 2011.

You can register for the seminar or contact KESS by emailing: raise@niassembly.gov.uk