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Ciarán Hartley is currently undertaking a PhD with Dublin City University. He graduated from QUB in 2020 with an LLM Human Rights and his undergraduate degree was in Peace and Conflict Studies from Magee College, University of Ulster. Growing up in the North has created a lifelong interest in fairness and the constitutional question in Ireland. Professionally Ciarán has almost 20 years of working in the community and public sectors. In his spare time, Ciarán enjoys keeping fit and competes at Triathlons. Ciarán can also strum a few chords and plays the bass guitar. Badly he says.

PhD Research Project

Constitutional preference tends to be the primary cleavage of politics in the North of Ireland. It is therefore assumed that the categorisations of Unionist/Nationalist encapsulate the entirety of the aspirations and fears connected with these identities. What is often referred to as ‘binary politics’ is a crude measurement that assumes rigidity of outlook. Such a view fails to acknowledge the complexities of society and the dynamic nature of political opinion.

Brexit has undoubtedly catapulted the question of Irish reunification into the mainstream of public discourse yet there is a myriad of interconnected issues under the surface of the unity debate that will determine whether an eventual border poll will be successful or not. There is a cohort within the broadly unionist community that will reject all overtures towards a conversation on unity and this is to be expected. Yet there are those that remain open to persuasion. Furthermore, it cannot be assumed that the broadly nationalist community will provide automatic support for unification with many holding legitimate concerns for a multitude of reasons.

This research seeks to investigate the complexities of unionist and nationalist identities to uncover the fundamental components that make up these categorisations. By doing this, themes of mutual interest and diametric opposition will emerge. This study will seek to uncover whether identifying and accepting that aspects of the unionist/nationalist dichotomy will remain unresolvable, if strong rights provisions that embrace identities and a range of social issues, as espoused in the Good Friday Agreement, can provide the framework to allay many of the fears that unionists and nationalist will have around unification.