While Northern Ireland experiences relative peace and political stability, its violent past is normalized in murals and commemorations, the language and posturing of opposition politics, segregated communities and social life. In “post-conflict” Northern Ireland, children and youth disproportionately experience paramilitary-style attacks and routine sectarian violence. The violence of poverty and restricted opportunities within communities debilitated by three decades of conflict is masked by a discourse of social, economic and political progress. Drawing on qualitative research, this paper illustrates the continued legacy and impacts of violence on the lives of children and youth living in post-ceasefire Northern Ireland. It discusses the prominence of violence—sectarian, racist, political, “everyday,” domestic, “informal”—in young people's accounts and the impacts on their safety, sense of belonging, identity formation, use of space and emotional well-being. The paper concludes by challenging narrow and reductionist explanations of violence, arguing the need to contextualize these within local, historical, political, cultural and material contexts.
- Northern Ireland; violence; conflict; place; identity