Faith-Based Political Engagement at the Sub-state Level in the UK
: The Cases of Wales and Northern Ireland

  • Matthew Rees

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines how faith-based organisations (FBOs) engage at the sub-state level in the UK. Despite the important political role played by religion historically, in contrast to Scotland, FBO engagement has received very limited attention in the cases of post-devolution Wales and Northern Ireland. By conducting a comparative study of these two cases, the thesis addresses the central research question: ‘In what ways have faith-based organisations engaged with devolved political institutions at the sub-state level in the UK’. In terms of its structure, the thesis is divided into two parts. The first half provides the foundation for the empirical study by assessing the current literature on FBO engagement at the sub-state level in the UK. Following this, it establishes the theoretical framework by conceptualising the FBO as a pressure group. This also informs the research questions, variables and hypotheses investigated. The second half of the thesis reports on the empirical case study based research. The findings highlight how FBOs engaged with devolved political institutions by adapting their political advocacy structures. Each FBO has pursued an insider strategy, with strongly rooted FBOs often supplementing it with an outsider strategy. In response, the majority of FBOs have received a privileged insider status from government, with the exception of weakly rooted FBOs in Northern Ireland. As regards effectiveness, strongly rooted FBOs are well placed to act as effective pressure groups, as are weakly rooted FBOs if they have identified resources desired by decision makers and are in circumstances where a government has established sponsored structures for faith communities. This thesis’ main contribution is its empirical study of FBO engagement at the sub-state level in Wales and Northern Ireland. More general insights are achieved by triangulating the findings with existing studies from the Scottish case. The thesis also contributes more widely to the literature on religion and politics in the UK, pressure group theory and to the privatisation and de-privatisation of religion literature.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorElin Royles (Supervisor) & Huw Lewis (Supervisor)

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