The Legacy of Conflict: Young People and Peace-building in Northern Ireland

By Alan Grattan.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 20, 2014 $US5.00

This paper explores the role of young people in the peace-building process in Northern Ireland after 30 years of segregation, hatred, and bloody sectarian conflicts. Before the advent of the ‘Peace Process’ in 1998, young people were central to the conflict as rioters, combatants, members of the various paramilitary organizations, or as victims of sectarianism. Today this is still the case, as the segregation, distrust, and hatred still permeates the divided lower class and disadvantaged communities. While the violence is of a low intensity nature compared to the height of the conflict, there is an increasing frustration among young people concerning the slow pace of political development and the denial of peace dividends. The heightened sense of alienation among many young people in Northern Ireland increases the propensity to return to conflict and violence through paramilitary involvement to address such frustrations and grievances. Young people, while being central to the violence and conflict, now must be given a voice in building the peace. This paper therefore explores the role of young people in the peace-building process to date, as well as examines lessons learned for those communities and societies emerging from violent conflict; in this aspect the paper highlights the work of Youth Action Northern Ireland (YANI) and especially their initiative ‘The Patience of Peace in a Runaway World.' While this paper is an initial overview of the context surrounding the situation of young people during the conflict and their desire to be part of the peace-building process, it is the foundation for further intense empirical research into the role of young people in building and sustaining peace in Northern Ireland.

Keywords: Young People and Violence, Communal Conflict, Alienation, Sectarianism, Peace-building

Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 20, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 375.687KB)). Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies.

Dr. Alan Grattan

Director Criminology, Director Winchester Crime and Justice Research Centre, Department of Applied Social Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Studies, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire, UK

Before coming into higher education I was a community and youth development worker in Belfast during the period of the conflict. I was involved in various anti-sectarian and peace-building projects within the community sector. Since becoming a senior lecturer within the university sector I have taught sociology, politics, community studies and criminology at the University of Ulster (Belfast), St Mary’s (London), University of Bolton and University of Southampton. My research into communal conflict, as well as young people and political violence, has taken my research to Zambia, South Africa, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia as well as Northern Ireland. Since arriving at the University of Winchester I have developed the programme in Criminology, and am Director of the Winchester Crime and Justice Research Centre as well as Co-Director of the Winchester Innocence Project. I continue to work and research with various youth and community organisations and projects in Belfast and Northern Ireland. In addition to those mentioned above other research interests include ‘role of emotions’ in conflict, miscarriages of justice and hate crime.