BBC - Will & Testament: Are you Northern Irish?
In the above blog piece, dated 2007, Professor Connolly suggests that sectarianism can be reduced by
"encouraging children's sense of being Protestant or Catholic alongside also helping them to recognise that they are all part of a wider and shared identity as Northern Irish. Perhaps the most positive finding from our research is that many children are already beginning to think in this way."
Higly-regarded Sinn Féin blogger, Chris Donnelly posits the following on Northern Irishness:
Forgive me for being blunt, but describing identity in primarily religious terms here is an entirely bogus premise. Given that the issue of national identity runs to the core of the political problem, proposing we skirt over people’s primary source of identity-as British or Irish- and instead propagate an alternative ‘northern Irish’ identity sounds very Alliance-ish to me. Surely a better conclusion would be to assert that we must find ways of equally legitimising and respecting the primary national allegiances of British and Irish here as a prerequisite to developing inter-communal trust from which shared identities may evolve. Ignoring primary identities and instead proposing artificial allegiances is more likely to arouse suspicion and mistrust on all sides. Let’s open this one to the floor.
The census shows however that this Northern Irishness is popular. It's interesting that Chris regards it as artificial. Chris suggests that Northern Irishness is not a primary national allegiance and therefore likely generate suspicion. It is a form of avoidance of Irishness, or Britishness, I think he suggests, which means that Northern Irishness does not solve the real problem which is that of reconciling people in the six counties to the primary nationalities of Britishness and Irishness.