Report highlights how generations born after major peace agreements are still impacted by the past

A new report conducted by members of the Centre for Children's Rights at Queen’s University Belfast and in partnership with The Commission for Victims and Survivors has highlighted how generations born after major peace agreements are still impacted by the past.

The “It didn’t end in ’98” report will launch today (Friday 5 November) at a virtual event and is the first of four research reports funded by the Special EU Programme Body’s Peace IV initiative. 

Engaging with children, young people and parents, the report demonstrates how some young people continue to feel the impacts of the Conflict first-hand – in negotiating divided space; growing up in families dealing with troubles-related trauma; living in communities with ‘paramilitary’ coercion and abuse. 

The research found, that in some areas, violence remains pervasive with children growing up feeling unsafe, or having normalized the threat of violence. 

Dr Siobhan McAlister from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s said: “There is a responsibility on government, and society as a whole, to recognise that the ‘peace agreement generation’ live the past in the present - surrounded by reminders in families, communities and increasingly the media; living and learning in divided spaces; and often in communities where coercion and abuse are common-place. 

Dr Clare Dwyer from the School of Law at Queen’s said: “Debates and discussions regarding legacy issues, and victims and survivors, should not exclude current or future generations of children and young people. Failure to include them not only neglects Article 12 of the UNCRC but can also have a significant impact in the long-term transition to peace. The young people in this study articulated a clear message to decision makers to meet their obligations, including building a more cohesive society and to protect children and young people from the violent legacy of the Conflict.” 

The research was commissioned by The Commission for Victims and Survivors and will inform a series of recommendations for consideration across service providers, practitioners and policy makers and influencers. 

Speaking on behalf of the Victims’ Commission, Chief Executive Andrew Sloan encouraged a more holistic and interdepartmental approach to building for the future“We often hear about joined-up approaches to working, but often it can be difficult to determine what that looks like in practice. As budgets tighten in the aftermath of the pandemic, working smarter across government has never been more crucial. 

“The issues drawn out in this research, for example, shared spaces, education and family life, are not siloed to any one age group. They permeate across society. What we need are ways to open conversations and bring the voices of victims and survivors to areas they have not historically been sought. Equally, and what this important piece of work from the team at Queen’s highlights, is the need to include and engage children and young people in conversations and decisions that affect their today and tomorrows. We cannot ignore the legacy impact of the conflict on everyday life, whether it be education, health, justice or communities. 

For our part, we recently drew on the themes explored in this research and a recent public opinion survey and advocated strongly at The Executive Office Committee for departmental champions on victims’ issues to be established across all departments. 

Similarly, we have reached out to all Borough Councils to discuss how we can do the same across local government and community planning and the Children’s Commission to ensure that upholding children’s rights remains a focal point. 

It’s so important that learning from the past is considered in all areas of government policy making and we continue to make real the better future we promised to our children and grandchildren.” 

Dr Mary-Louise Corr from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s concludes: “Conflict-related violence has far-reaching effects on individuals, families and communities, and its impacts can be felt by future generations. Experiences within some of the communities involved in this research (and others not included), suggest that a new generation of victims is being created. 

This report shows going forward consultation with children and young people is crucial to ensure that their views are considered.