As a society in conflict, Northern Ireland maintains a peculiar relationship with violence: all the political actors deplore violence while at the same time justifying their positions as actors of the conflict. A consensus seems to lie in the ideal of a society where all communities could coexist in peace. The values of tolerance and respect for diversity are thus proclaimed by nearly everybody and multiculturalism has progressively become the dominant discourse.
This paper will retrace the history of multiculturalism in Northern Ireland and explore the general principles which inform it as a theory: recognition of pluralism, celebration of cultural diversity, parity of esteem, etc. I will then show that multiculturalism tends to ignore the political significance of culture and equates 'culture' with 'community', thereby reifying it.
Lastly, I wish to question the notion of 'cultural communities' taking into account the political dimension of 'culture' in Northern Ireland. I intend to conclude on the idea that no amount of 'cultural engineering' can solve a conflict that is deeply political in nature.
Last modified: 7 May 2001