Researching findings: Experiencing Paramilitarism

Research completed by academics in the Centre for Children’s Rights and University of Nottingham reveals the nature and extent of paramilitary style intimidation, attack and exploitation of children and young people in some Northern Ireland communities.

The researching findings are available at

Understanding the Impact of Paramilitaries on Young People in Northern Ireland 

Authors: Dr Siobhan McAlister, Dr Clare Dwyer and Dr Nicola Carr

Young people living in communities with a known paramilitary presence feel that they are often the main targets of abuse. Many of those interviewed had experience of direct or indirect victimisation, including witnessing or personally experiencing; shootings, fines, exiling, beatings, bans and curfews intimidation.

A significant number had been victims of severe, and sometimes multiple instances of, physical and psychological abuses as children, the impacts of which had continued into young adulthood. Paramilitary presence, intimidation and attack also impacted on young people’s sense of safety and security, their freedom of movement and leisure activities as well as their mental health and well-being. The research found that:

“Some of the most marginalised young people – those with drug and alcohol problems, precarious housing, difficult family circumstances - experienced further exclusion and marginalisation as a result of coming to the attention of paramilitaries”

Whilst the research did not find significant levels of recruitment, young people identified a range of factors which would make those their age vulnerable to exploitation and recruitment. These included family and community links, the need for protection, a search for belonging and identity.

Young people often had mixed feelings about paramilitaries, understanding their behaviours to be excessive and hypocritical on the one hand, yet viewing them as ‘protectors’ of the community on the other. Support was often grounded in the belief that ‘community justice’ is more swift and effective than formal criminal justice and due process.

The authors conclude that the research raises concerns about the extent to which the State is meeting its obligation as signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” This includes the right to protection from violence and abuse, and the right to freedom from torture, cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment.


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New Research Funding Award

The Centre has been awarded funding to examine the transgenerational impacts of the Conflict in Northern Ireland and Border Regions. Led by Clare Dwyer (School of Law), Mary-Louise Corr (SSESW) and Siobhan McAlister (SSESW), and funded by the Commission for Victims and Survivors, the research adopts a child rights based approach to exploring legacy issues for young people and their parents. For more information see 'Current Projects'.

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6th Children's Rights Symposium at Queen's University Belfast

The Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast is delighted to host the 6th Children’s Rights Research Symposium (CRRS) for doctoral researchers and their supervisors on 4-5 October 2018. This year’s theme for the symposium is Children’s Rights: theories and methodologies.  The Call for Papers submission deadline is 31 May. See more at Symposium

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Participation for Protection - project update

The Centre’s Participation for Protection (P4P) project, led by Siobhán McAlister, now has a new website that contains information and updates about the project and blog pieces relating to children's rights. The first blog on some of the complexities in the debate between children's rights and digital rights by Sara Lambrechts of KeKi is now available to view at

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Participation for Protection: Enhancing Child-Centred Approaches to Violence

The Centre for Children’s Rights has been awarded funding from the European Commission for a project, led by Siobhan McAlister, aimed at enhancing child-centred approaches to victims of violence, and raising children’s understanding of reporting mechanisms and support structures.  ‘Participation for Protection’ (P4P) involves partners from Austria (Ludwig Boltzmann Institut Fur Menschenrechte Forschungsverein), Belgium (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Kenniscentrum Kinderrechten), Germany (Hochschule Rheinmain), the Republic of Ireland (NUI Galway), Romania (Universitatea Babes Bolyai) and the UK (Queen’s University, Include Youth, University of Nottingham).  It adopts a child-rights based approach to developing training and resources for children and young people, and those working with and for them.

Two children and young people’s advisory groups based in Belfast (St Ita’s Primary School and Include Youth’s Give and Take Programme) are informing key aspects of the project. This includes: the design of consultation tools for use with children across the partner countries; the information to be provided to children; training resources for professionals; a multi-media resource for children and young people.

Over two years the project will consult with around 1000 children and young people across the partner countries on the theme ‘what makes good support and service responses?’.  This consultation includes school children and specific groups at risk of or already experiencing violence, including: children in care, children in detention/in conflict with the law, Roma children, children living in high conflict communities, child migrants and refugees, and child victims of domestic violence.  The overall aim is to enhance rights-based supports, services and treatment for child victims, and for those who work with children to better understand their needs.

For more information contact 
Dr Siobhán McAlister at or tel +44 (0)28 9097 5918

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CCR Members present at CREAN conference

Katrina Lloyd, Michelle Templeton, Laura Lundy and Bronagh Byrne presented their work at the 2018 bi-annual conference of the Children's Rights European Academic Network (CREAN). CREAN aims to further enhance the academic field of children's rights as an interdisciplinary field of studies. This year, the conference was held at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Katrina Lloyd presented on ‘Children’s subjective wellbeing: The role of self-esteem and respect’; Michelle Templeton on ‘What does it mean to be ‘Child-Friendly’?: Children’s Views’ and Bronagh Byrne on ‘From the Global to the Local: Implementing the UNCRC in Policy and Practice’. The closing comments on the conference were provided by Laura Lundy. 

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Measuring the Effectiveness of Children’s Rights

Laura Lundy gave an invited presentation at an international conference on ‘Measuring the Effectiveness of Children’s Rights’ in Belgium. The conference was co-hosted by the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (Belgium) and ChildONEurope. It was aimed at practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and child advocates in Brussels on best practice in measuring the effectiveness of children’s rights.

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