Peacemaking youth programmes in Northern Ireland

Published date06 April 2012
Date06 April 2012
AuthorShelley McKeown,Ed Cairns
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Sociology
Invited paper
Peacemaking youth programmes
in Northern Ireland
Shelley McKeown and Ed Cairns
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review psychology-based programmes, which were
developed to bring together children and young people from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds
following the outbreak of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors focused on reporting findings from early research
papers and reviews as well as more recent studies. They examined the role of holiday schemes and then
the development and evaluation of inter-school contact schemes.
Findings – The findings highlight the strengths and weaknesses associated with peace programmes
for youth in Northern Ireland. The paper argues the importance of these programmes for conflicted
societies, provided that they are based on current research.
Originality/value – The authors believe the work from Northern Ireland reviewed here has important
implications for activities aimed at improving intergroup relations in other societies. These findings will
be of interest to researchers, policy makers and practitioners alike.
Keywords Intergroup contact, Peace programmes, Conflict, Northern Ireland, Youth
Paper type Literature review
As is true in many conflicted societies, the end of war does not mean the start of peace
(MacGinty et al., 2007). In 2010, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) crime statistics
for 2009-2010 reported a 15.4 per cent increase in sectarian violence from the previous year
(PSNI, 2010). This is a surprising statistic given that Northern Ireland is post-agreement and
often labelled, perhaps incorrectly, as a post-conflict society (rather than a post-violence
society). Focusing on peacemaking in Northern Ireland, the present paper examines current
relations and reviews the role of youth-based peace programmes which are used as a major
tool to improve intergroup relations.
The conflict in Northern Ireland
The island of Ireland has seen centuries of Anglo-Irish conflict dating as far back as 1170
(Darby, 1995), but it was not until the emergence of the recent conflict in 1968, that
researchers properly developed an interest in intergroup relations in Northern Ireland. There
was no single cause for the sudden outbreak in violence between British/Protestant/Loyalists
and Irish/Catholic/Nationalists, rather it was a consequence of a series of events following
the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921. In particular, it has been
argued that the rise of a Catholic middle class in the 1950s, a result of a new industry and
education system (Birrell, 1972), led to Catholic civil rights demands backed up by marches
in the 1960s. This ultimately resulted in crowd riots and the deployment of British troops into
Northern Ireland (Darby, 1995). During the 30 years of the troubles in Northern Ireland,
DOI 10.1108/17 596591211208274 VOL. 4 NO. 2 2012, pp. 69-75 , QEmeraldGroup PublishingLimited, ISSN 1759-6599
Shelley McKeown and
Ed Cairns, School of
Psychology, University of
Ulster, Coleraine, UK.
Since the writing of this article,
Professor Ed Cairns has
passed away in tragic
circumstances. His co-author,
Shelley McKeown, wants to
dedicate this article to his
memory. The publication was
continued in honour of the
support he has given to so
many people. In particular, he
has been a huge part of the
co-author, Shelley McKeown’s,
academic life and he will be
hugely missed so this article is
dedicated to his memory both
as an academic and as a
personal friend. His memory will
be an eternal one.

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