Social Capital in Northern Ireland: A Barrier to Reconciliation?
Limited qualitative research exists on the social capital of young people in Northern Ireland, but this remains an important aspect of Northern Irish society which needs to be further studied given the propensity for ethnic conflict within the province. This article represents the summation of a larger research project analysing the problems facing Northern Ireland given its current social capital structure. The empirical aim of the project is to understand how young people in Northern Ireland view their relationships across sectarian boundaries. Drawing from in-depth interviews and qualitative analysis from 14 participants, aged16-19, this project evaluates the ways in which the social capital structure of Northern Ireland perpetuates division and presents a challenge to the peace process. The project shows that,while the surface division and tension of the past has largely disappeared, significant obstacles to the generation of peace in Northern Ireland remain, due to the lack of bridging capital available to young people in the province. A brief set of suggested policy proposals to address these challenges conclude the project. The implications of this research demonstrate that substantial work remains to be done to address fundamental societal issues surrounding inter-sectarian contact and to build sustained integration in Northern Ireland.