The long-term success of any political settlement in Northern Ireland will rely not only on the willingness of young people to transcend their inheritance but also on the degree to which they are empowered to do so. This article focuses on the 'next generation' in Northern Ireland, young people between the ages of 13 and 18 years, and in particular on young Catholics. It is based on a study conducted in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, using a method influenced by the Participation Action Research (PAR) tradition employed in social psychology scholarship. The article explores the ways in which these young Catholics imagine and define community and peace. It examines the degrees to which they consider themselves to be part of a sectarian community, their perceptions of the ultimate attainability of peace, and of their own roles in peacebuilding. The study finds that young people's peacebuilding potential is hampered by the institutionalized bipolarity of the political system and by the continued existence of a system of communal deterrence. The varied exposure to the conflict of young people in different parts of Northern Ireland influences their conceptualizations of peace and recognition of this should be operationalized in the peace process.
Replication datasets available