At the end of February 2019 I was travelling around Northern Ireland for a social research on the post-conflict transition society with the university. We delved into real facts told by people who face the struggles, walked in the street where everything happened less than thirty years ago and analysed the social consequences and challenges faced by society.

I was so ready for that weekend out! A real exploration of the post-conflict society in Northern Ireland. Post-conflict?

I still remember the third day of the field-trip with the class as if it was yesterday. We were all sitting in the main room of that youth centre and Steve was talking to us with that strong Irish accent that was so difficult to understand. My concentration was all directed towards his words: “Folks, let me explain you something” And then he was pointing at the PowerPoint. “This is the level of closeness that there is among the youths here” Then I turned my eyes towards the slides. There was a pyramid.. and at the very bottom there was written individualthen at the next level there were the peers, then family and at the very end society. I mean, peers before family? At that point I understood the importance of the community and the concept of broken families. 

Since the Good Friday agreement (signed in 1998) the society in Northern Ireland was supposed to be fully at peace even if with a lot of trauma in their memories. That is not the case as there are still tensions between communities, violent attacks and assaults and, a huge wall that divides those opposed communities. On one side the unionist, who supports the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and on the other side the nationalists who seek the independence of Northern Ireland from Great Britain. Two communities, two educational systems, two security systems, two identities, two ways of calling one city: Derry and London Derry and a wall, representation of the divided society.

Wherever you belong to, you are stacked in your own area and that will be your identity. It is said that you need at least four generations to forget the past. Youth are still experiencing their family’s trauma and they are growing in a divided society characterised by the popularity of criminality, where youth still join armed group because of the lack of support from family and the social environment.

The division of society is not good for young people


The division of young people is not good for society

After the intense talk in the orphanage with steve we started walking around the area while a local inhabitant was giving us a little bit of background. We were in the protestant area at that time. My eyes witnessed holes on the wall of elementary school and cameras and the big walls – If you belong to one area but you want to cross it, you should do it before 8pm, as giant metal gate closes the access – and then I saw graffiti all over the place. Wow, I come from a city that has exceptionally a lot of them but I never seen so many around me, and they are so impactful! Graffiti and colourful murals are framing the city and narrating the struggles that people have been through but also many political opinions.  The guy that was walking us around even recommended us a good course on political art at the university there in Belfast.

Everywhere I was feeling on my skin the hidden tranquillity and the ghosted bomb in the street. Talking with people who experienced it first-hand made me realise the importance of peace and identity. The identity of those people is marked by oppression, strong emotions and political views and those walls are representing a peculiar stability and peace among the two identities that are still alive in the post-conflict society in Northern Ireland.


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