For a long time, Northern Ireland was seen as home to one the world’s ‘intractable conflicts’, offering little hope of a political solution to violence between the province’s predominantly Catholic, Nationalist community, and its mostly Protestant, Unionist community. With Unionists supporting continued British rule over the territory, and Nationalists aspiring to Irish reunification, tensions solidified and the communities became locked in what appeared to be an intractable, zero-sum dispute. From the late 1960s until 1998, terrorist attacks and fierce clashes, involving paramilitaries and security forces, dominated life in Northern Ireland. The conflict became known as ‘The Troubles’ and saw the deaths of over 3500 people, including nearly 2000 civilians, out of a population of just over 1.5 million.
The Good Friday Agreement (also known as the Belfast Agreement) of 1998 brought together political enemies in an accord that offers hope for a sustainable, peaceful future for Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement is often seen as the end point of the Troubles, holding strong in spite of spoiler attempts by paramilitary splinter groups like the Real IRA, whose bombing of Omagh in 1998, took 29 lives. Since then, violence levels have significantly subsided, however sporadic events, such as the 2011 killing of the young Catholic police recruit, Ronan Kerr, and the ‘flag protests’ of 2012 and 2013, highlight the serious divisions that remain in society. Such events also serve as reminders that even now, more than fifteen years after the signing of the peace agreement, groups who oppose the peace process are still active.
Without ignoring the seriousness of the challenges that remain, Northern Ireland offers a hopeful example of the impact that local peacebuilding can have on violent conflicts and how bottom-up and top-down approaches to peacebuilding can effectively complement each other. While established politicians such as John Hume, David Trimble, Mo Mowlam and even former US President Bill Clinton are known for the great efforts they made to forward the peace process, grassroots movements, emerging from within communities, also played an indispensable role in diffusing the conflict. Civil society groups like the those listed on this website were vital in creating spaces for dialogue and cultivating the political will that eventually brought about the peace accords. Civil society groups continue to work in their communities, striving for a sustainable restoration of peaceful relations.
Explore our guide to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Includes a general overview, timeline, guide to key people and resources. Read more »
Stories from Northern Ireland
Peacebuilding organisations in Northern Ireland
Below are listed peacebuilding and conflict resolution organisations active in Northern Ireland. Just click on a group’s name for further information.