Psychological research into national identity has considered both the banal quality of nationalism alongside the active, strategic construction of national categories and boundaries. Less attention has been paid to the conflict between these processes for those whose claims to national identity may be problematic. In the present study, focus groups were conducted with 36 Roman Catholic adolescents living in border regions of Ireland, in which participants were asked to talk about their own and others' Irish national identity. Discursive analysis of the data revealed that those in the Republic of Ireland strategically displayed their national identity as obvious and ‘banal’, while those in Northern Ireland proactively claimed their Irishness. Moreover, those in Northern Ireland displayed an assumption that their fellow Irish in the Republic shared their imperative to assert national identity, while those in the Republic actively distanced themselves from this version of Irishness. These results suggest that for dominant ethnic groups, ‘banality’ may itself provide a marker of national identity while paradoxically the proactive display of national identity undermines minority groups claims to national identity.