Martha Feely

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




R. Matthews




This thesis attempts to apply an interpretive analysis to the background to the escalation of social conflict in Northern Ireland during the 1960's. The problem is analysized from a perspective that emphasizes the socially and historically constructed nature of 'reality'. The social construction of reality perspective used stresses that in order to understand how people come to act as they do, it is necessary to grasp the frame of reference of the actors. An explanation is then built up using the actor's definitions of the situation. This thesis argues that people in Northern Ireland acted toward intersubjectively constructed definitions of reality and that these are key factors in the explanation of social conflict in Northern Ireland. Although it is argued in this thesis that social conflict in Northern Ireland is not simply religious warfare, it is held that the categories of Protestant and Catholic are still the relevant terms by which to analyze the problem. The significace of the terms Catholic and Protestant with respect to the present social conflict in Northern Ireland is, in large part, derived from their historical relationship. This phenomenon is investigated as the origins of the politicoideological groups presently engaged in conflict in Northern Ireland are traced to Ireland's colonial past. I attempt to show how various cognitive constructs, values, beliefs and structures from the past were sedimented through the historical process of reality construction and how they persisted as subjectively relevant up until present time.

McMaster University Library

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