Beyond Brexit: Northern Ireland's young activists are building hope

18_09 Nicola Browne_Final-1.jpg

Nicola Browne

20178-19 Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity

As turmoil around Brexit continues, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which concluded over 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, hangs in the balance.

A “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland might result from the fallout of Brexit, which could heighten tensions and has led some to ponder the likelihood of a return to scenes of violence and unrest that many assumed were consigned to the past. For many, however, the past never really went away.

Social and economic inequality in areas such as employment and housing played a key role in originating and sustaining the conflict in Northern Ireland and little has changed on that front in the communities that suffered most.

Twenty years after the peace agreement, the areas that experienced the highest number of conflict deaths (West Belfast) and second-highest (North Belfast) remain the most impoverished, even though they now sit cheek by jowl with the new Belfast campus for the University of Ulster and glittering office blocks delivered through publicly funded incentives to big business.

Suicide rates have rocketed in the years following the conflict and are now the highest in the United Kingdom, with economically deprived areas experiencing three times as many suicides as non-deprived areas. The long-term unemployment rate (percentage of the unemployed who’ve been without work for one year or more) is 63 per cent, compared with 27 per cent in the United Kingdom.

Read Nicola Browne’s full blog post on


Nicola Browne is a 2018-19 Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity. A human rights activist with 18 years of experience in NGOs and academia, she is the former director of policy for the Participation and the Practice of Rights project (PPR), in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She tweets at @nicolajbrowne.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme, the International Inequalities Institute, or the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image by Garry Gavan from Pixabay