Ships passing in the night: psychosocial programming and macro peacebuilding strategies with young men in Northern Ireland

The study presented here explores how the impact of the conflict, as it applies to interventions with young men, is conceptualised within the context of Northern Ireland after the signing of the peace agreement (1998). It focuses on four groups undertaking psychosocial work, that is, two generic support groups and two groups with an explicit focus on those who had experienced violence during the conflict. A total of 20 young men (18–24 years old) and 19 staff were individually interviewed, using a semi-structured interview. The study found that many challenges facing young people concern the interrelationship between the past and a poor socioeconomic context in the present. The struggle to address the legacy of the conflict in the present is, certainly in the literature and according to the participants of this study, linked to a lack of knowledge about the past. When it came to promoting such change and building peace, participants tended to ascribe to a personal transformation model as the route to engagement with peacebuilding work. This article argues that the personal transformative model is emblematic of the wider peacebuilding debate in Northern Ireland, where psychosocial and peace orientated programming has been separated from wider peacebuilding strategies, such as job creation. This highlights an analytical deficit in the psychosocial programming, peacebuilding and economic development fields.

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Hamber, Brandon; Gallagher, Elizabeth