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Research captures the experiences of living and working in areas of paramilitary control

New research that captures the everyday experiences of living in areas alongside paramilitary violence and coercive control has been launched at Queen’s.

The research brought together policy makers, academics, and community activists to hear about positive and negative experiences of those living and working in areas impacted by paramilitary control. 

Funded by the Executive Office, the research is part of the Communities in Transition (CIT) project which seeks to support the transition of these sites to a point where paramilitary groups no longer exercise influence, and their activity is no longer as prevalent.  

From April and July 2022, Dr Brendan Sturgeon and Professor Dominic Bryan, from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics and the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s, working in partnership with Co-operation Ireland, led a team of researchers in the design and development of ten Area Reports, which would facilitate an overview of the sites within which the CIT project is active. 

Speaking about the project Professor Bryan said: “It is important that we understand the complex role played by paramilitary groups, understand how this is experienced by people and recognise the context around the use of coercive control including the economic vulnerability of these areas.” 

The academics engaged with 1,400 participants to write the reports, which cover ten locations across the eight areas in Northern Ireland targeted by the programme. 

Talking about how the research was conducted Dr Sturgeon commented: “We have adopted an innovative mix-methods approach, which includes a Household Survey, in-depth Qualitative Interviews and a PGIS Spraycan Mapping Tool, to explore the current social condition of each of the sites where the CIT programme is active.” 

Key outcomes from the research showed: 

  • 32 per cent of participants agree or strongly agreed that paramilitary groups had too much influence on young people in their area. 
  • 34 per cent felt that paramilitary groups created fear and intimidation in their area. 
  • 59 per cent indicated that improved relationships with the PSNI would help make people feel safer. 
  • 68 per cent of the total number of participants agreed or strongly agreed that there was a strong sense of community in their neighbourhood. 
  • 52 per cent indicated that paramilitary groups contributed to crime, drug dealing and ASB in their area. 
  • 27 per cent noted that paramilitary groups had a controlling influence in their area. 

Co-operation Ireland Priority Team Leader Lucy Geddes said: “Co-operation Ireland is pleased to have supported Dr Sturgeon and Professor Bryan in their work which will now go to inform how we transition our communities away from the coercive control of paramilitaries.” 
The reports are available to download  


Media enquiries to Zara McBrearty at Queen's Communications Office on email: