Digital contention in a divided society

Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland

By Paul Reilly

Digital contention in a divided society


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8707-3
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: January 2021
  • BIC Category: British and Irish Politics, COMPUTERS / Web / Social Networking, COMPUTERS / Internet / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Peace, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics, Northern Ireland, Ethical & social aspects of IT


How are platforms such as Facebook and Twitter used by citizens to frame contentious parades and protests in 'post-conflict' Northern Ireland? What do these contentious episodes tell us about the potential of information and communication technologies to promote positive intergroup contact in the deeply divided society?

These issues are addressed in what is the first in-depth qualitative exploration of how social media were used during the union flag protests (December 2012-March 2013) and the Ardoyne parade disputes (July 2014 and 2015). The book focuses on the extent to which affective publics, mobilised and connected via expressions of solidarity on social media, appear to escalate or de-escalate sectarian tensions caused by these hybrid media events. It also explores whether citizen activity on these online platforms has the potential to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland.


1 Social media, contentious politics, and social movements
2 Too many cyber warriors? The case of Loyalist Peaceful Protest Updater
3 "You can't eat a flag" Northern Ireland Twitter responds to the flag protests
4 PSNIRA vs. peaceful protesters? YouTube, sousveillance and the policing of the flag protests
5 Parody of Esteem? LAD and the rise of 'silly citizenship'
6 Twitter, affective publics and public demonstrations: The 2014 and 2015 Ardoyne parade disputes

Appendix 1 Content Analysis of newspaper coverage of flag protests
Appendix 2 Content analysis of newspaper coverage of Ardoyne parade dispute



Paul Reilly is a Senior Lecturer in Social Media and Digital Society at the University of Sheffield

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