This project explored ‘Love Across the Divide in Northern Ireland: 1968-present’. It was led by Dr. Alison Garden at Queen’s University Belfast. Alison has subsequently secured a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to further this research, producing a social and cultural history of mixed marriage, or love across the divide, in modern Ireland.

There is a long tradition of depicting Ireland’s difficult relationship with Britain as a frustrated and dangerous romance between lovers from ‘opposing sides’. Although the trope goes back to the medieval period, these romances take a decidedly political turn after the Act of Union (1801) when Ireland became a part of the UK. After this, Ireland saw a rise in ‘National Tales’, typically involving a marriage plot signalling the union between the nations. In these novels, the heady thrill of a love story that cuts across social boundaries sets out to achieve some serious political and nation-building work.

After the Partition of Ireland in 1921, and again in the latter decades of the twentieth century, as the euphemistically named ‘Troubles’ escalated in violence and terror, these types of stories became increasingly common. Looking at a range of poems, novels, plays, films and TV programmes, this project asks why the trope is so prevalent; how we might understand it; and why no one has taken these love stories seriously before now. As we approach the centenary of Partition and the prospect of a return to a post-Brexit hard border, these questions are more timely and urgent than ever.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 797433.