In Northern Ireland, few interventions can raise the emotional temperature of a conversation so sharply as bringing up the topic of sectarianism. It is a harsh word, expressing a harsh reality and often hurled as an accusing, condemning weapon. In fact maintaining civil conversation usually means not discussing sectarianism at all, especially in mixed settings. Between these extremes of accusation and avoidance, people have painfully few tools for getting to grips with the problem of sectarianism in a constructive way .
Given the difficult and explosive nature of sectarianism, we want to begin by laying out as clearly and honestly as possible the basic elements of our approach. Readers can expect the fol- lowing ideas, principles, and assumptions to pervade and guide the rest of this book.
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