“We felt more safe during the Troubles”

One of the problems facing people in the most troubled areas is, claims David Connolly of the University of York, the loss of the conflict itself. The communal sense of pulling together in the ‘struggle against the British’ has largely subsided, and is, he claims, leaving people with a sense of loss.

“Over the last decade, since the Good Friday Agreement, there has been a very profound community loss. A lot of its identity was based around resistance to the state and with peace that has been lost,” he told The Times.

“It’s often difficult to cope with stability. Social relations were very strong, even if for negative reasons, and in that sense some do miss the Troubles.”

Half of the households surveyed in the local government ward of Whiterock felt that community bonds had weakened and, while many acknowledged the benefits brought by peace, two thirds said they suffered stress.

Dr Connolly, who works for the university’s “postwar reconstruction and development unit”, describes a “self-perpetuating cycle of mental ill-health” as a consequence of the long years of the Troubles and its aftermath.

But there is also some disgruntlement at the burgeoning of crime since the IRA effectively ‘went away’:

In a series of interviews and focus groups Dr Connolly encountered people who were afraid and intimidated by a new kind of violence breaking out on their streets, which had once been suppressed by the IRA. One resident told him: “There was a war on, people were scared to do drug dealing but they are not now. Children are out of control – they have no fear.

“Parents now do not know what they are doing. Before, the IRA controlled the youth and kids, now parents do not know how to. The kids themselves were involved in the conflict and had a sense of purpose; now they have nothing. The political situation is all over the place and creates anxiety.”

And he concludes:

Dr Connolly concludes that the ceasefires and the outcome of the peace process have defused the sense of communal survival and purpose along with a clear sense of a common enemy, which in turn has created a vacuum within Whiterock.

“In the postconflict peace phase ironically some people feel less secure on a day-to-day basis,” Dr Connolly said. “There has been a perceived increase in crime and life is actually more violent for a minority.”