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Brigid Rafferty - photoBRIEGE (BRIGID) RAFFERTY

Thesis title: Caught in the Crossfire: Catholic Religious Sisters in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’ (1968-2008). 

PhD Supervisors: Professor Mary O’Dowd and Dr Margaret O’Callaghan


Research Abstract

The historical and political treatment previously accorded to the religious dimension of ‘the Troubles’ has been an area of deep contention and much debate, with charges that traditional historical narratives tend to focus on the contribution of male clergy and the voices of women Religious are rarely heard. Consequently, this project aims to make a significant intervention into research on marginalised identities during conflict, through analysis of the experiences and roles played by Catholic religious sisters during ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1968-2008). Building on previous research undertaken for my Master of Research in the Arts, this project will combine academic data and archival research with oral testimony. It aims to place women’s voices at the centre of research, exploring what their narratives reveal about their experiences as religious Sisters, their socio-historical situation, and the cultural and political climate in which they lived and worked.

The positive engagement of many Catholic religious sisters in the development of this research will reveal the potential advantages offered by the collaborative story telling process, expose the difficulties faced by women during the ‘Troubles’, and demonstrate that the voices of all who endure conflict deserve to be heard.  

Particular areas of interest: The 1960s - global conflict and civil unrest; the Catholic Church of the post-Vatican II era; theologies of liberation; the transnational religious activity of religious sisters in response to conflict; religious sisters - identity, ‘informal power’ and ‘conform or rebel’.

Biographical details: I worked as a nurse in specialised areas of health care for twenty one years. I received a BA in the Humanities (First class honours) from Ulster University in 2012 and a Master of Research in the Arts (with Distinction) from Ulster University in 2016. I commenced my PhD in History in Queen’s University Belfast in September 2017.

My PhD research project is generously funded by the Department for the Environment (DfE).

Publications: Briege Rafferty and Dianne Kirby, ‘Sisters in the ‘Troubles’, Doctrine and Life, vol. 67, no. 1, (January, 2017), pp. 2-12.