Shared future – shared values? Taking stock of the peace process in Northern Ireland: teenagers’ perspectives

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Abstract

Although preceded by years of political and policy developments, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) in 1998 is generally regarded as marking the end of conflict and the beginning of the transition to peace. However, this transition has been neither linear nor straightforward. Divisions, both physical and symbolic, reflecting collective identities and ‘otherness’, remain resistant to change and continue to foster sectarianism, mistrust and outbreaks of violence. Despite some positive change, not least of which is the absence of sustained violence, the majority of neighbourhoods and schools remain either Protestant or Catholic. Drawing on data from the Young Life and Times (YLT) survey, an annual attitudinal survey of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland that has been running since 2003, this article explores what young people's perspectives reveal about the complexities and the challenges involved in transitioning to a more shared society. Where relevant and possible, their attitudes are compared with those expressed by adults in the annual Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) survey. A primary focus on tracking teenagers' attitudes is important for a number of reasons. While often regarded as a ‘post-conflict’ generation, segregation and polarisation remain features of teenagers' everyday lives and the political landscape. Children and young people are one of the four key strategic priorities in the latest government strategies to build united communities and achieve change and are embedded in the Programme for Government 2016–2021. If these government commitments are to be realised, the voices of young people must become central rather than peripheral. It is important, therefore, that their opinions are not only sought, but also interrogated and fed into policy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Trends
Early online date29 Jun 2017
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 29 Jun 2017

Keywords

  • teenagers
  • good relations
  • belonging
  • identity
  • culture
  • Northern Ireland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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