Sectarian divide discussed at first Scottish-Irish Conversation

Sectarian divide discussed at first Scottish-Irish Conversation

The sectarian divide in Scotland continues to dominate headlines and has legal and political ramifications which stretch well beyond the Old Firm.

The 2012 Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament will get underway with an event exploring how interfaith relations have shaped history in both Scotland and Ireland and how they continue to shape all aspects of society.

Organised by the University of Aberdeen’s Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS), it will bring together historians, religious leaders and experts in conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Sectarianism, Politics and the Law will be led by Professor Barbara Fennell and Dr Michael Brown, both of the University of Aberdeen. The event will be chaired by the University’s Glucksman Professor of Irish and Scottish Studies, Cairns Craig.

Other contributors include Dr Gladys Ganiel, assistant professor in conflict and resolution at Trinity College, Dublin; Rev Dr Alan David Falconer, former Minister of the Cathedral Church of St Machar, Aberdeen, and a former director of the Irish School of Ecumenics; and the eminent historian Professor Richard Finlay of the University of Strathclyde.

Sectarianism, Politics and the Law is the first of a series of Scottish-Irish Conversations organised by RIISS on topics affecting the two nations to run over the next two years.

Professor Fennell recently led a major research project examining witness testimony written down following the 1641 Irish Rebellion, which revealed new insights into this pivotal period in Irish history.

She said: “We will be talking about sectarianism in the community in the present day and various approaches to dealing with it.

 “In the 1641 Depositions project we looked at the early history of the Catholic-Protestant divide; through this event we will be looking at how it still affects everyday life here and now and what might be done to improve things.”

Dr Brown, the Acting Director of RIISS, said: “Although sectarianism in Scotland often revolves around football rivalties, we know it goes far beyond this and it is important to look at the issue from all perspectives.

“The Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies was established in 1999 as part of the peace process dividend to provide an informed understanding of the historical and cultural influences which have shaped relationships between Scotland and Ireland.

“The two countries share many similarities and many of the same problems, though they manifest themselves in different ways.  It is our intention to hold a series of Scottish-Irish conversations on important issues facing our two countries today.

“Through these dialogues we hope to learn from each other and share our knowledge, experience and best practice in dealing with the problems that our countries face today.”

Following on from Sectarianism, Politics and the Law, RIISS will bring together experts on other current issues such as Migration, Housing, Youth and Ageing and Higher Education.

Professor Fennell added: “Historically Scotland and Ireland have influenced each other’s policy and behaviour and the past has definitely had an impact on the present.

“Through our Scottish-Irish Conversations we hope to open up dialogue between academics and experts in their respective fields and to examine ways in which this might inform public policy and practice.”

Sectarianism, Politics and the Law takes place at the Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament in Committee Room 1 on Friday August 17. It will run from 10am to 11am. Entry is free but tickets must be reserved in advance by visiting