Reconciliation and deprivation: twin challenges for Northern Ireland

Reconciliation and deprivation: twin challenges for Northern Ireland

This report looks at the twin challenges of promoting reconciliation and tackling deprivation in Northern Ireland. It asks how these issues could be addressed to make this a better place to live, study and work for young people.

In this first of three reports, we review the literature and the public policy approach, along with 15 new in–depth research interviews with leading practitioners and academics, to take stock of what has been achieved in the 25 years since the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. Two further reports will give voice to young people’s experiences, aspirations and ideas for the future.

This report’s main conclusion is that ongoing deprivation and a lack of societal integration have contributed significantly to an absence of reconciliation.

The lack of sustained economic peace dividends in many of the areas worst impacted by the conflict highlights the links between reconciliation and tackling deprivation. A fear shared by many is that the cost–of–living crisis experienced by many citizens, combined with budgetary pressures across government departments, will exacerbate these challenges.

Valuable programmes of activity in communities have undoubtedly positively impacted the lives of many young people. However, while the evaluation evidence is usually positive from individual programmes, the dial has not shifted on reconciliation at a broader societal level. When stark divides remain in education and housing, bringing about reconciliation between communities can feel like swimming against the tide.

New momentum is required to share more public resources, integrate aspects of life across old divides, build stronger cross–community relationships and understandings, and offer new opportunities for the next generation.

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