Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Book reveals if violence was for God or Ulster

Two academics from the University of Ulster and one from Queen's have this week launched the first book to explore ex-combatants' relationships with religion.

'Ex-Combatants, Religion and Peace in Northern Ireland', written by Professor Gerard Leavey and Dr David Mitchell from the University of Ulster with Professor John Brewer, Queens University, Belfast, sheds new light on the interplay of religion, identity and violence in Ireland using original interviews with ex-combatants from across the political and religious divide.

Professor Leavey, director of the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said: "This book offers fascinating insights into the very complex relationship between the various people from loyalist and nationalist communities who were involved in violence and the churches.

"It explores, through the perspectives of ex-combatants, how the conflict in Northern Ireland, while certainly not a religious one, was entangled with religion in various and complex ways."

He added: "Much has been written about the influence of religion on the Northern Ireland conflict and the part played by ex-combatants in the peace process. Yet surprisingly, we know almost nothing about the religious outlook of ex-combatants themselves.

"Did they consider themselves religious? Was religion integral to their political identity? How do they view the position of their respectivechurches during the troubles? Does religion help them cope with the past?

"This book is the first to address these questions and also shows how the case of Northern Ireland may help illuminate the current international debate around religion and peace-making."

Professor Leavey, from north Belfast, developed this study while Director of Research at the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health.

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