One in 10 people in the Republic could define themselves a victim of the Troubles, a report carried out by the Commission for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland has found.
Young men living in Border counties in the Republic were among those who said they had been affected by 30 years of violence in the North. This is the first time the commission — set up in 2008 to support victims and survivors following the signing of Belfast Agreement peace deal a decade earlier — has gathered “concrete data” on how the conflict has affected people living in the South.
Similar research took place in the North in 2021.
Divisive legacy Bill
Its release coincides with the controversial British government legacy Bill passing its final hurdle in parliament, in a bid to “draw a line” under the past.
The findings show that 10 per cent of adults in the Republic believe they meet the legal definition of a victim and/or survivor of the Troubles in the North.
The report also found that 4 per cent of those in the Republic have been bereaved as a result of a conflict-related incident and 7 per cent say their mental health has been affected. A further 7 per cent say they have been present at, or witnessed, a Troubles-related incident. Of those people who said their mental or physical health has been affected, 62 per cent continue to feel the impact of this to date.
Most (82 per cent) people surveyed said it was important to address the legacy of the conflict, with strong support for the view that victims and survivors of the living in the South should be able to access the same services and support as those living in Northern Ireland.
The findings also suggest strong support for a Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme (similar to that operated in Northern Ireland) for permanently disabled victims and survivors born in the Republic, with a majority of adults expressing the view that the Irish Government should pay regard to the needs of victims and survivors.
Following its Northern Ireland survey in 2021 where 61 per cent of the North’s population felt Troubles teaching should be compulsory at some stage within the formal education system, the commission found that 65 per cent of respondents in the South felt this learning should be compulsory.
NI Victims’ Commissioner Ian Jeffers said he hopes the new research provides the “evidence base” the commission needs “when engaging with relevant bodies in the South on how we can put measures in place to improve lives of people there who still bear the impact of the Troubles today”.
Greater consideration required
He added: “In the earlier years of the commission’s formation, most of the focus and efforts were concentrated in Northern Ireland itself. But hurt, loss, grief and the many other ways in which conflict has affected people’s lives knows no borders and so over the years, our work has evolved to give greater consideration to those victims and survivors outside Northern Ireland. As a father myself, I am determined to do my bit to grow stronger relationships across these islands so that future generations see even greater reconciliation.”
“Crucial to that is a foundation of stable, lasting peace. The next step for us will be to look at how we share these findings in the Republic so that they have a real impact on policies and decision-making for victims and survivors there. It comes at a critical time for victims and survivors as the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill proceeds from the UK parliament to royal assent.
“From that point on, a fundamentally flawed Bill becomes law and so we all have a role to play in helping shape its outworkings to actually deliver something of benefit for victims. I know that many people can be unwilling to wear the label of victim and that’s fine. But the figures in this survey can start to give us an idea of the extent of lives affected and whether we are meeting their needs.”
The Social Market Research was commissioned to carry out the survey, with the findings based on a sample of 1,010 adults.