University of Limerick
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The experience of religious stigma and discrimination among members of religious minorities in Ireland : a multi-faith approach

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posted on 2022-12-14, 11:58 authored by Olivia Cosgrove
This is an investigation of the experience of religious stigma and discrimination among eight non ethno-religious minority groups in Ireland. The study focuses on the connections between the Irish social context and the perception of religious stigmatisation and acts of discrimination. This is in order to understand the lived experience of religious discrimination and to examine the structural elements which appear to contribute the perpetuation of stigma in Irish society. This is the first study to explore religious discrimination specifically from a non ethno-religious perspective and also crucially takes a multi-faith approach to the field. This research is placed in the context of a nation which has undergone rapid demographic and religious changes in the past twenty years and therefore an understanding of the social treatment of small religious groups is increasingly important. Drawing on existing work on stigma and discrimination, this study is underpinned by an extended research definition which encompassed both the acts of discrimination and the processes of stigma designation in order to strengthen the links between the interrelated concepts. This was designed to produce a multi-level understanding of interactions between the individual and the wider social context, looking explicitly at structural elements which appear to contribute to religious based discrimination. I argue that religious discrimination and stigma are inherently linked to the Irish religious environment which may have changed from reverent public adherence to the Church to a more culturally located identity, but still retains power in the Irish social realm. Methodologically, this study blends survey data collected from eight research groups with phenomenological hermeneutic interviews with eight interviewees. The survey produced 989 valid responses, with over 70% reporting religious discrimination in the past five years. The research findings also point to high levels of concealment of one's religious identity. Through the interviews, this discrimination was found to be primarily indirect and discreet in nature and appeared to be strongly linked by the participants to the public stereotypes propagated by the Catholic Church, the media, the Irish education system and the lack of religious literacy in Ireland. The individual experiences were explored through the prism of identity management strategies, which connect micro-experiences to the wider social context in which they occur, and reveal the insidious nature of religious discrimination in Ireland. This study, while limited to those groups who took part, reveals an area of social discrimination which has not been previously explored in Ireland, and the results point to the need for further research in this area.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Kuhling, Carmen





Department or School

  • Sociology

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