Due to the nature of this issue, our approach to this brief will be slightly different. Because the Troubles in Northern Ireland are tied so much to their historical background, the Context section of this brief will be an analysis of the history that led to the tensions in 1960.
The Troubles in Northern Ireland were a 30-year dispute steeped in both religious conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants and geopolitical conflict between the British and the Irish. These tensions, which date back hundreds of years, came to a head in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998 when the opposing sides of the conflict used guerilla warfare tactics to inflict damage on rival paramilitary organizations and civilians alike. Though the Troubles officially ended in 1998, the repercussions of the turmoil are still seen today through persisting segregation, continued paramilitary aggression, mental health struggles, and political turmoil throughout the country. While steps are being taken in order to address the consequences of the Troubles through promoting mental health programs and working towards integrated education, the deeply rooted societal tensions in Northern Ireland continue to act as barriers in overcoming these lingering problems.
Guerrilla Warfare - A military strategy in which attacks are implemented by irregular troops by using “fast-moving, small-scale actions against orthodox military and police forces and, on occasion, against rival insurgent forces, either independently or in conjunction with a larger political-military strategy.” 1 This strategy is mainly used by a smaller, weaker group wanton to win a conflict by inflicting enough damage that the larger opponent eventually meets their demands in order for the attacks to end. 2
Good Friday Agreement - A peace treaty created and signed in 1998 by the governments of Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, and many of the political parties in Northern Ireland that signified the official end to the Troubles. This treaty established a devolved government in Northern Ireland, where the CNR and the PUL would share power. 3
CNR - Stands for Catholic, Nationalist, Republican. For many in Northern Ireland, these 3 terms are interchangeable. Thus, if someone is termed “Catholic” it is also assumed that they identify as Irish and hope to leave Great Britain and join into the Republic of Ireland. It is also assumed that when referring to a “Republican” that these people also identify as Catholic, and so forth. 4
PUL - Stands for Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist. As with the CNR, these 3 terms tend to be synonymous and are transposable with each other. If someone is “Protestant” it is assumed that they identify as British and believe that Northern Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom. It is also assumed that a “Unionist” would identify as Protestant, and so forth. 5
UVF - Stands for Ulster Volunteer Force. This PUL paramilitary group emerged in 1966, right before the Troubles officially began. The UVF was responsible for many shootings and bombings around Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland during the Troubles, killing more than 500 people. The UVF continues to exist even after the Troubles ended, but the organization renounced violence in 2007. 6
IRA - Stands for Irish Republican Army, also known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army or PIRA. This CNR paramilitary group dates back to the early 1900s when the Irish in Dublin sought to gain freedom from the British. The IRA then saw a resurgence in Northern Ireland in the 1960s during the CNR’s civil rights movement. It is estimated that in that time the IRA killed over 1,500 people, with over 500 of those being civilians. 7
On January 30, 1972, 13 civilians were shot dead by British soldiers in the city of Derry, Northern Ireland, after a civil rights march by Northern Irish Catholics—protesting what they deemed as unfair treatment by their Protestant countrymen—turned into rioting in the streets. This event was known as “Bloody Sunday,” and it became a monumental day in the history of Northern Ireland. 8 Though the tensions between Catholics, Protestants, and the British government had been escalating for years, the story of Bloody Sunday became a sensationalized worldwide news story. 9 After this event, people outside of the British Isles finally began to pay attention to the ethno-political conflict that was taking place in Northern Ireland, labeled the “Troubles” by locals. 10
The Troubles in Northern Ireland officially began in 1969 and lasted until 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. 11 However, the tensions that led to the explosive 30-year conflict date back to the early 1100s when the British invaded Ireland and brought their laws, language, and customs into the land.
The next few hundred years consisted of uprisings from the Irish in an effort to regain their country for themselves, all of which were suppressed by the British. 12 Around the 1600s, Queen Elizabeth I chose to send in large numbers of English and Scottish settlers to the province of Ulster in what is now Northern Ireland in an attempt to establish Protestant dominance over the primarily Catholic Irish. 13 This act created a Protestant majority in the northernmost region of Ireland, one that identified as British and swore allegiance to the British monarch. 14
The next few hundred years marked a time of increased nationalism by each community—the British Protestants viewed the triumph of the Protestant King George’s defeat of the Catholic King James in the late 17th century as a sign of Protestant superiority, while the Irish Catholics clung to the revival of Gaelic language and culture in the early 19th century as a way to celebrate the time before British colonization. 15 The growing nationalist movement escalated tensions on the island, which came to a head in 1918 when a group of Irishmen staged an uprising in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, declaring the need for Irish independence from British rule. 16 After a 3 year civil war, the 1922 Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, establishing an Irish Free State that would later be known as the Republic of Ireland. This treaty also specified that the upper 6 provinces in Ireland, which had become predominantly Protestant due to continued immigration and high birth rates, would have the option to opt out of being a part of the Irish Free State. 17 These 6 counties stayed in the United Kingdom and became the British country of Northern Ireland.
While Ireland achieved independence in the signing of this treaty, the establishment of a separate Irish Republic only signified the beginning of tensions that would go on to plague Northern Ireland for the next hundred years. Between 1920 and the 1960s, Northern Irish Catholics began to claim that many of the practices introduced by the British government were oppressive and discriminatory, such as giving more housing opportunities to Protestants, providing fewer job opportunities for Catholics, gerrymandering electoral boundaries, and abusing civil power. 18 This unrest led to an insurgency in the 1960s of Catholics who wanted to fight to regain their civil rights, which was met with aggressive opposition from Protestant paramilitary groups. 19
It is key to understand that, while the Troubles could be easily simplified into a religious conflict of Catholics against Protestants, there are many more layers to the divisions of these two groups. Many accounts of the Troubles indicate the divided parties by the names “CNR” and “PUL”. “CNR” stands for Catholic, Nationalist, Republican, and this acronym is indicative of the people who believe in the idea of a united Ireland and wish to be joined back with their brothers in the south. “PUL” is the abbreviation for Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist, and these people pay allegiance to Britain and believe that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom. 20 That being said, more conflict arose due to the Catholics’ claim of discrimination because many who aligned themselves with the Unionists felt as if the CNR was using these pushes for civil rights as a back-door scheme to fight for a united Ireland. British military refused to meet the demands of the CNR civil rights activists, which eventually drove the CNR to create organizations such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in order to make their voices heard. 21
Consistent uprisings from the CNR and their associated paramilitary groups became a constant for both the military and the civilians of Northern Ireland. The IRA and other CNR-affiliated groups fought for what they viewed as their civil rights, and PUL and their associated paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) formed in order to combat what they viewed as terrorist acts from members of the IRA and other CNR paramilitary organizations. The British army acted as the peacekeeping party between the CNR and PUL paramilitary organizations. These 3 factions—the CNR and their paramilitary, the PUL and their paramilitary, and the British soldiers—were the key players in the Troubles. 22
During the 30 years of conflict, the CNR and PUL paramilitary groups inflicted major damage to the streets of Northern Ireland. In many instances, these organizations would instill terror by harassing civilians, bombing streets, and shooting those on the opposing side of the conflict. 23 It is largely agreed upon by historians studying the Troubles that organizations such as the UVF would target mainly civilians, while the IRA attacked both civilians and the British military. 24 Though there are various reports with differing numbers on how many people were killed by both the IRA and the opposing Unionist paramilitary groups, the estimated total of deaths on both sides of the conflict is around 3,600. 25
In 1998, the Troubles were officially called to an end when the Good Friday Agreement was signed into law. This agreement set up a new government for Northern Ireland where the CNR and the PUL had equal governmental power. It also established that Northern Ireland’s status in Great Britain would not change unless there was a majority vote in Northern Ireland to do so. 26 Though the signing of the Good Friday Agreement established an official end to the Troubles, there are many repercussions that the citizens of Northern Ireland still face to this day in the aftermath of those 30 years of conflict.
Due to the nature of this conflict, the contributing factors section of this brief will explain what led up to the Troubles before 1968 and the consequences section will illustrate current problems that have come from this conflict post-1998.
Much of the recent conflict in Northern Ireland is the result of a long history of religious turmoil between the Catholics and the Protestants. Religious affiliation became a definitive classification for all reigning monarchs in the British Isles beginning when King Henry VIII resigned from the Catholic Church in order to form the Church of England in 1532. 27 The consequent monarchs were a mix of Catholic and Protestant, something that eventually caused conflict not only within the United Kingdom, but ignited tensions throughout Europe. 28 Because religion was so closely linked to politics at the time, the religion of a country’s leader was incredibly significant to the citizens of the land, as many monarchs would favor those of their same religion while discriminating against those of any other religion. In some cases, rulers would even require their subjects to convert to their preferred religion by law. 29 This possibility inspired many conflicts and desires to overthrow monarchs, in order to place a leader of one’s own religion in power.
A major point of tension in the discontent between the Catholics and the Protestants comes from the Battle of the Boyne, a battle fought in 1690 between King James II, the Catholic monarch of the time, and William of Orange, his Protestant challenger to the throne. This battle resulted in William of Orange defeating King James II and reestablishing Protestantism as the dominant religion of Britain. 30 To this day, the defeat is celebrated by Protestants in Northern Ireland during their Twelfth of July Celebration, a day marked by parades led by members of the Orange Order, a society of Protestants who march in celebration of Protestant victory over the Catholic king. 31 32 The Orange Order has been around since the late 1700s and reached its peak enrollment in the early 1960s, just before the Troubles officially began. 33 The Order is seen by many as “anti-Catholic,” and their participation in the Twelfth of July parades has been a source of conflict for years before and after the Troubles. 34
The continuation of religious contempt has been perpetuated on both sides, something that is exemplified by the ongoing traditions and acts stated above. Northern Ireland is a very religious society, and many find themselves bound to those traditions due to their doctrinal beliefs. 35 However, the issue is much more complex than just religious convictions; over the years, the idea of “Catholic” and “Protestant” evolved from merely a religious affiliation to more a sociopolitical identity for the people of Northern Ireland. 36 This evolution caused the political disagreements between these two groups (such as choosing to leave or remain in Great Britain) to become merged with religion, which led to the long history of religious agitation being amplified by new political tensions. 37 The Troubles themselves were the climax of these tensions.
Claims of discrimination have propelled disputes between the CNR and the PUL for years. “Penal Laws” were introduced into Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries which penalized the practice of the Catholic religion. 38 Some of these laws prohibited gatherings of Catholic congregations in an effort to “prevent the further growth of Popery,” while laws placed civil restrictions on those who identified as Catholic. 39 Eventually, legislation was passed prohibiting Catholics from purchasing land, 40 which was then followed by new voting regulations stating that a papist would not be able to vote in the upcoming elections unless they had documented proof that they renounced their affiliation to the Catholic church. 41 Though these laws were later rescinded by multiple acts in the 18th and 19th centuries, many claim the policies set the groundwork for continued prejudice later on. 42
The issue of discrimination against the Catholics reignited in the 20th century when accusations were brought forward against Northern Ireland’s Parliament that Catholics were again being subjected to prejudiced policies. 43 Allegations of “discrimination in housing, discrimination of jobs … gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, [and] abuses in civil power in the use of legislation” were the key points made by Catholics against Parliament. 44
These claims were widely accepted by a majority of people in Northern Ireland, including many who identified as PUL. However, the 1970 Northern Ireland Census reveals that, though Catholics occupied approximately 26% of all households in Northern Ireland, they were inhabiting 31% of all government-issued houses. 45 This statistic indicates that, despite claims of underrepresentation, the Catholic population was statistically overrepresented in their share of government housing. Though claims of housing discrimination were and continue to be widely believed throughout Northern Ireland, this discrimination may not have been as drastic or widespread as once suggested.
The Catholics’ fight against discrimination was met with disbelief and inaction by the government, something that eventually propelled Catholics to begin their own Civil Rights movement. The campaign advocated for equality in housing, voting rights, and to end the system of gerrymandering by the government. 46 When the British government took no action in favor of the Catholics, what started out as peaceful protests became more belligerent, which the government in turn responded to with increased aggression. 47 This propelled those fighting for civil rights to push back against the aggressive response, escalating the situation further until riots began to break out on the streets. 48 These riots signified the beginning of the Troubles, and many believe that the inability of the British forces to effectively stop the riots led to the continuation of the 30-year conflict. 49
The practice of guerilla warfare implemented by both sides of the conflict contributed to the 30-year length and the high amount of damage inflicted during the Troubles. In the instance of Northern Ireland, the IRA and other CNR paramilitary groups began to believe that the only way to make changes in their favor was to organize an insurgency. The IRA had much success in implementing guerilla warfare strategies during the 1918 Irish Revolution, which likely played a part in the organization’s decision to execute similar strategies in the 1960s. 50 Because the IRA was small and lacked the authority within the government to make change, members implemented guerilla attacks in order to make their voices heard.
During the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland there were many attacks carried out throughout Northern Ireland in the name of the paramilitary organizations. On multiple occasions, bombs would explode at bus stations or under cars, wracking up death tolls for Catholics, Protestants, and British soldiers alike by killing 10-30 people at a time. 51 While these larger-scale attacks would only happen periodically—usually one every other year—there were many smaller aggressions that would be carried out more consistently. The participation of young people in the violence also contributed to the destruction during the Troubles; many reported using “weapons, batons and that, knuckledusters, steel toecaps, baseball bats, machetes and hammers, golf clubs, bus hammers, hurley sticks, [and] forks you eat your dinner with” 52 as weapons to be used against their opponents in the streets. The violence caused both mental and physical damage to many citizens of Northern Ireland, and some even chose to leave the country due to the unrest. 53
Because the IRA was a loosely connected organization with no specific leader, the organized British law enforcement found it difficult to target any specific people and stop the attacks. 54 During this time, the UVF was formed as a way for members of the PUL to combat what they viewed as a rise in Irish nationalism by the IRA and its supporters. 55 Both paramilitary groups on each side of the conflict began utilizing insurgency techniques, bombing streets and staging random attacks in order to harm the other group. 56 Neither organization was subjected to police action due to their irregular military styles and the inability of the police forces to catch the attackers. This inability to capture and prosecute helped many terrorist attacks remain unchecked, eventually causing the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. 57
Despite the official end of the Troubles in 1998, the division between Catholics and Protestants is still prominent in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, something that is exhibited by the high number of peace walls that have been erected in major cities since the Troubles ended. Peace walls are large walls constructed of concrete, stone, or steel and can reach over 6 meters (approximately 20 feet) high. 58 Early on, these walls were intended to provide protection by minimizing rioting in the streets and shielding each other from the violence of the opposing communities. 59 However, peace walls have more recently been viewed as “a method of exclusion” between Catholic and Protestant communities rather than as a protection from violence and disorder. 60 Though the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement gave many hope that barriers such as these would be taken down, the number of walls has only increased; an estimated 60 peace walls are still found in Northern Ireland’s capital city of Belfast, a substantial increase since 2006 when only 37 peace walls were in the city. 61 62 It should be noted that while the increase in peace walls marks an unwillingness to integrate the Catholics and the Protestants, others believe that the peace walls stand as a main tourist attraction and are only in place because of the visitors coming to see them. 63
Educational segregation is another problem that continues to plague the country. Throughout most of Northern Ireland, schooling is also divided by religion. Many schools are deemed “Catholic” or “Protestant”, and thusly the students that attend are highly likely to do so because they align with that specific religion. 64 Though efforts are being made to create blended schools with students of both communities, only 65 of Northern Ireland’s 1,153 schools (around 6% of schools nationwide) are currently integrated. 65 Segregation may be due to the fact that approximately 43% of schools in Northern Ireland are Catholic-maintained, 66 and most of these schools only accept a small percentage of students who are not Catholic. 67 Additionally, the Protestant-dominated public schools, known as “controlled schools” also have low numbers of Catholic students. Though both these types of schools claim to be public schools with open enrollment, there is a large disparity of who goes to which school due to lingering social tensions. 68
In addition to the segregation of schools, quality of education is also different between the two groups. Catholic-maintained schools in Northern Ireland famously outperform their Protestant counterparts in learning evaluation testing, 69 which may be due to the fact that, though Catholic-maintained schools are funded by the state, they act much like private schools with specific faith-admissions criteria and an altered curriculum for their students. 70 Many believe that the exclusion of Protestant students from Catholic schools, whether by school admissions or by personal choice, has led to inconsistent education that places Catholic students at an educational advantage over Protestant students.
Along with the increase in peace walls and active educational discrepancies found in Northern Ireland, the distinct separation of these two communities is manifested through the continued presence of Paramilitary Organizations such as the IRA, UVF, and many others. Many of these organizations formed during the Troubles and never disassembled after the peace treaty had been signed. 71 Now, these groups have taken up the task of policing their local areas, something that presents a challenge to local authorities due to the fact that many members of the communities see the paramilitary organizations as more credible than the police. 72 Though there seems to be a decrease in paramilitary aggression in recent years, there is still significant activity being reported about the groups. A report released in September 2018 by the Police Service of Northern Ireland stated that in the past 12 months, there were 19 casualties in Northern Ireland caused by paramilitary-style shootings and 54 casualties by other forms of paramilitary-type aggression. 73 Though the duties and structures of these paramilitary organizations have changed since the Troubles, they still pose a significant hurdle in breaking down the barriers that divide Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. 74
Many citizens of Northern Ireland have suffered mental health challenges as a result of the Troubles. A 2015 publication by the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety indicated that approximately 19% of the general population showed signs of potential mental health problems, 75 a statistic that has also been reported to be as high as 23% by other studies. 76 Mental illness can manifest itself in many ways, from generalized depression and anxiety symptoms to disorders with specific triggers.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent mental health issue affecting Northern Ireland today. This illness typically stems from exposure to various types of physical or emotional trauma, something that an estimated 61% of men and 51% of women who lived in Northern Ireland during the Troubles reported experiencing during the time. 77 Due to the nature of mental health disorders, it is difficult to get an accurate estimate of how many people in the country suffer from PTSD. However, studies indicate that Northern Ireland has one of the highest percentages of people suffering from PTSD in the entire world, with one report by University of Ulster psychologists estimating that around 9% of the population has suffered from diagnosable PTSD in their lifetime. 78 Many who showed symptoms of PTSD also reported being in areas of high tension during the Troubles and most stated that they were either directly involved in the conflict or they were close to someone who was directly involved. 79 Though this is a widespread problem throughout Northern Ireland, many people who report having symptoms of PTSD due to being a witness or victim of chronic violence during the Troubles also state that they never sought help. 80 This may have been due to a cultural stigma about seeking professional help, lack of public awareness of mental illness at the time, or the expense of seeking treatment. 81
In addition to those who were present during the Troubles, many of the younger generation are also being affected by the nation’s history of violence. Transgenerational trauma occurs when someone may not have experienced trauma directly, but have loved ones who were directly affected. 82 These people may suffer the consequences of abuse, alcoholism, broken homes, and many other repercussions that came about due to the Troubles. 83
The political spectrum in Northern Ireland may have improved since the disarray of the Troubles, but there are many political problems that have come up as a consequence of the conflict and subsequent peace treaty that ended the fighting. The first of these problems is the unstable government that was created in the Good Friday Agreement, and the second is the political uproar within the country due to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 outlined specific revisions to Northern Ireland’s governmental system which was aimed to appease both members of the CNR and the PUL. Due to the historical divisions of both sides, neither wanted to end the fighting until they received what they believed to be their rightful power in government. To effectively please both communities, the Good Friday Agreement was drafted. The Agreement outlined the new form of government to give each side of the dispute equal power. 84 In this government, a First Minister and Deputy First Minister are appointed. The First Minister would be from either the CNR’s political party Sinn Fein or the PUL’s political party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The Deputy First Minister was required to be selected from the other party. 85 In order for the government to function properly, both ministers must be sitting on the executive. If one of the ministers walked out, the other would be forced to resign and thusly the government would cease to function. 86
This exact event happened in January 2017 when the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, walked out of the Northern Ireland Parliamentary building, Stormont. His refusal to come back to Parliament forced the First Minister at the time, Arlene Foster, to also resign from her seat. This resulted in the entire government shutting down. 87 Many claim that Sinn Fein was politically motivated to shut down the government because their political counterparts refused to pass the Irish Language Act, a law that would allow the native Irish language of Gaelic to be taught and used freely in Northern Ireland. 88
As of July 2019, Northern Ireland’s government has been shut down for two and a half years with no solid answer of if or when it will be reinstated. 89 Though claims have been made for months that Sinn Fein and the DUP have been in talks about making resolutions, the lack of movement at Stormont has caused much frustration to both the citizens of Northern Ireland and the British parliament who has been delegated the charge of policymaking in the country while the government is shut down. 90
In addition to the political conflict within the country itself, Northern Ireland faces a major problem in relation to the United Kingdom’s decision to separate themselves from the European Union (EU), a move that has been labeled as “Brexit.” 91 Brexit has been faced by much opposition by both the international community and those within Britain who disagreed with the results of the vote, and the arguments are so numerous and complicated that they cannot be fully elaborated on in this brief. Though Northern Ireland showed its preference to stay in the EU with 55% of the vote, 52% of all Britain voted to leave. 92 93 However, if Britain did leave the EU, there would be both tangible and emotional consequences for Northern Ireland. 94
Being a member of the EU has many benefits, including having the ability to trade with other countries within the EU without having to pay tariffs. This means that trade within Europe is cheap and goods can be exported to other countries within the EU with low costs. 95 A decision to leave the EU could create a financial problem for Northern Ireland due to the fact that new tariffs would be placed on the country’s exports if they decided to trade with countries that were still in the EU. 96 Additionally, members of the EU would be less willing to export goods to Northern Ireland because they would also have to pay tariffs. 97 This creates a situation where trade incentives go down, leaving Northern Ireland in a place that could be financially detrimental.
In addition to the economic consequences of Brexit, Britain’s decision to leave the EU could complicate the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. One advantage of being in the EU is that all of the borders are “soft borders,” which means people can travel to and from different countries within the EU without having to pass through customs. 98 Northern Ireland has benefited from the soft border greatly because people are able to travel between Northern Ireland and Ireland so freely. 99 There have previously been no customs checks or border patrolling on the Irish border. However, if Brexit occurs, the soft border separating these two countries will have to be replaced by a “hard border,” and the Republic of Ireland will be obligated by the EU to impose customs checks and screenings whenever anyone crosses the border. 100 Not only does this cost money, but it makes it difficult for people to cross a border that was previously passed through seamlessly.
The transition of a soft border into a hard border also creates problems with identity and nationality in Northern Ireland. Because of the strong relationship many in Northern Ireland, specifically members of the CNR, have with the Republic of Ireland, many people in Northern Ireland claim their nationality as Irish. Those with these nationalistic ties feel that if they were separated from the Republic of Ireland by a hard border, they would lose their Irish connection. 101 Not only would this create a sense of loss, but many worry that Brexit may lead to an increased push by those who want to be reunited with Ireland to leave Britain. 102
The Troubles have a complex history with many deeply rooted societal issues that likely would require drastic measures to resolve. Many practices addressing complex problems would need to begin at the governmental level, which is currently impossible due to the government shutdown. Because of this, the practices addressed in this section are more specific, individual, and focused on narrow outcomes that can be achieved and measured by organizations and individuals.
There are many local organizations throughout Northern Ireland that are dedicated to improving the mental health of the citizens through individual support and group therapy. Organizations such as these connect those in need of support with Health & Wellbeing Caseworkers whose goals are to discuss an individual’s needs and help those people access the support they require. These case workers are trained to act as a conduit between an individual and their treatment. 103 Local organizations that have case workers who can be contacted at any time include the WAVE Trauma Centre, Families Moving On, The Ely Centre, and Cunamh. These organizations have local centres in different areas of Northern Ireland where people can go to access support.
The support provided by these centres is promoted and encouraged by Northern Ireland’s government through the Individual Needs Program (INP). This program was created with the intention of providing victims and survivors of trauma with easy, affordable access to mental health services, 104 and has partnered with the organizations above to create a positive experience for those utilizing the services provided.
The INP has helped many individuals gain the support they need—in 2016 a reported 5,111 individuals were able to get help by accessing the INP. 105 This program has been utilized more than was expected, and has grown from providing services to just over 3,000 people to providing services for over 5,000 people in just 3 years. 106 Additionally, there are many individual organizations such as the WAVE Trauma Centre that are providing services at an increasing rate. According to WAVE’s data, the organization receives approximately 600 new referrals a year across their 5 Northern Ireland locations, and they have helped over 6,800 people since the organization was founded in 1991. 107 Many other organizations also report receiving an increased number of clients in recent years. Though these organizations provide data on the number of people served, there does not seem to be much data on specific outcome or impact measurements.
Mental illness is difficult to measure due to the fact that it is usually measured by subjective instead of objective means. This implies that, though there are promising statistics being presented of numbers of people accessing mental health services, it is difficult to measure the quality of the services and whether or not these services being accessed are helping to solve the problem. 108 Additionally, it is difficult to obtain a measurement to see if rates of mental illness are decreasing due to these programs because mental illness can be such an incalculable statistic. Though we may be able to see rates of hospitilizations due to mental illness or suicide-related deaths decrease, 109 it is nearly impossible to measure who is mentally ill if it does not present itself in a quantitative way. 110 Additionally, though the INP has provided funding for these centers and for the individuals enlisting in the services, the amount of money the government is spending is still low, especially considering the high rates of mental illness in the country. 111 The government stalemate has exacerbated this problem, with many promises made by the government such as the implementation of “regional trauma service[s], increased access to psychological therapies, recovery-focused provision, maternal mental health, and eating disorders” never materializing. 112
In addition to community services and social support, there are many clinical psychologists in Northern Ireland who are certified and trained in different psychotherapy techniques. Therapies that are known to specifically help those suffering from PTSD fall into the category of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and include techniques such as Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET). 113 Many clinical psychologists work privately or with a clinic, and they can be contacted for private sessions by the client.
CBT has been shown to have profound, lasting effects on patients who engage in this type of psychotherapy. In fact, the Northern Ireland Assembly released a study in March 2017 that indicated that CBT was the most effective way to treat mental illness out of all the options they studied. This study analyzed 199 participants as they sought access to CBT services. According to the report, “47.9% of patients … demonstrated reliable recovery and 76.7% of these patients demonstrated reliable improvement.” 114 Another study conducted on victims of a 1998 Northern Ireland car bombing revealed that a majority of those who completed the full CBT regiment saw an 80-100% improvement of their Post-traumatic Diagnosis Score (a score measuring the severity of trauma symptoms). Those who participated but did not fully complete the therapy treatment still saw promising results, and none saw a digression of their trauma symptoms. 115 This indicates that CBT services will produce positive results a high majority of the time.
Because clinical psychologists are usually self-employed or they work within a clinic, many are able to charge higher prices for their services. Due to the fact that Northern Ireland’s government has not allocated adequate funds towards mental health services (in fact, funding for these services in Northern Ireland is the lowest in the United Kingdom), counseling and access to services is not as widespread as it could be. 116
Impact is also hard to measure because there may be confounding variables such as the patient’s receptiveness to treatment, the clinical psychologist’s skill in the training, and whether or not the patient and the psychologist feel like they are a good fit for each other. Additionally, there is inconclusive research about whether there are certain types of CBT that are more effective than others, which may be due to the fact that each individual responds differently to therapy, different types of trauma may need different treatments, 117 or that research on mental health treatment is often not conducted effectively enough to draw conclusions. 118 All of these things may impact the effectiveness of CBT in a clinical psychology setting.
Though the idea of integrated schools has been around since the late 1970s, these schools finally became a reality with the signing of the 1989 Northern Ireland Education Reform Order. 119 Integrated schools aim to provide an environment where pupils from different community backgrounds can interact, formally and informally, on a daily basis. A large body of research data suggests that extended contact between children and young people from different community backgrounds, such as that provided in integrated schools, creates the conditions for generating mutual respect and understanding. The idea of integrated schools is being heavily pushed by Northern Ireland’s government, and they are offering grants to schools that establish an integrated, interreligious environment for the students. 120 Organizations such as the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) work to promote and support integrated education across Northern Ireland. These organizations engage in projects that confront past and present issues with segregation in the country, with the aim to promote a more integrated future. 121 There are at present 62 grant-aided integrated schools in Northern Ireland with a total enrollment of approximately 22,600 pupils. This statistic is about 7% of all pupils enrolled in schools. 122
Research presents positive reactions from students who attend integrated schools, with one study stating that 78% of students interviewed said that they would stay at the integrated school they were currently in even if they have a choice of any other school. 123 The percentage of people who believe that integrated education is “very important” has increased from 60% in 2003 to 69% in 2011. 124 Evidence also suggests that students who participate in integrated education “have more consistent and meaningful patterns of contact with peers of the other religion both within and outside school and are arguably more likely in their adult life to adopt more accommodating approaches to issues that have divided the two religious groups within Northern Ireland.” 125
Furthermore, integrated schools provide economic benefits because they reduce operation costs and training for teachers. 126 Though solid data is hard to project, researchers estimate that fully integrating all schools in Northern Ireland would save around £15.9 million to £79.6 million for the country. 127 However, it must be acknowledged that these are estimations of a hypothetical situation and thus cannot be proven.
Though there seem to be positive results from integrated schools, there are also gaps that are difficult to measure. Though this practice began officially in 1989, most integrated schools came about in the mid-1990s. 128 Because of how recent this practice began, it may be too early for accurate data on the long-standing impacts to be produced. Additionally, while researchers may be able to measure how many people are enrolling in integrated schools, there is not an accurate way of measuring whether or not students are interacting with those outside of their community and how effective interactions are at achieving the desired goals of the programs. There are also other potential confounding factors influencing the outcome of these schools, including the possibility that parents who put their children into integrated schools already support integration in the first place and those who are the biggest opponents of integration likely would not enroll their children in these schools. 129
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