Perceptions of a superordinate identity in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is still a deeply divided society where national and religious identities remain important. In recent years, the emergence of a new identity, "Northern Irish," has attracted researchers' attention. It has been suggested that it may be acting as a common ingroup identity, associated with more positive intergroup attitudes. This study aimed to examine perceptions of the Northern Irish identity. It was predicated that British Protestants and Irish Catholics would perceive the Northern Irish identity differently and that identity strength would influence perception of inclusion, but only through subgroup identity threat. Using a cross-sectional survey, participants who self-identified as British Protestant (n = 76), Irish Catholic (n = 41), Northern Irish Protestant (n = 78), or Northern Irish Catholic (n = 13) were asked to report their strength of identity in addition to how inclusive and threatening they felt the Northern Irish identity to be. They were also asked to indicate who they think uses the Northern Irish identity and what it means. Result show that Irish Catholics were less likely to perceive the Northern Irish identity as inclusive, compared to British Protestants but there were no differences on perceptions of threat. Threat was found to mediate the relationship between identity strength and superordinate identity inclusion. The Northern Irish identity was suggested to be mostly used by British Protestants but the meaning of this identity differed, both within and between identity groups. These findings have implications for understanding the real world applicability of a superordinate identity and for societies trying to move forward from sustained periods of conflict.