Far from Post Conflict: A Gendered Analysis of Paramilitary Coercive Control in Northern Ireland

Far from Post Conflict: A Gendered Analysis of Paramilitary Coercive Control in Northern Ireland

In partnership with Co-operation Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast

Co-operation Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) work in partnership in a number of ways, to create cohesive approaches to peacebuilding blending academia and community development. This has included supporting students on the Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) MA Programme on Global Security & Borders, by providing quality placements that offer students the opportunity to conduct impactful research on real life issues.

Co-operation Ireland recently hosted Madeleine Hughes who under the supervision of CI Programme Manager, Lucy Geddes, completed a research project exploring a gendered analysis on the impact of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland.

The report explores the gap in research and knowledge around the gendered dynamics of paramilitary intimidation and control, paying attention to the ways economic and psychological control inflicts violence on women’s everyday lives.

You can access the full report below.

Far From Post-Conflict: A Gendered Analysis of Paramilitary Coercive Control

Research Presentation Event

On Friday 1st July 2022 Madeleine presented the findings at an event in QUB, supported by Co-operation Ireland, to contributors of the research, as well as small group of policy makers, academics, and community workers. The session also provided the space for delegates to reflect and discuss the themes that emerged in the research findings, including the impact of paramilitary coercive control on women from minoritised ethnic communities, and the LGBTQ+ communities; as well as the culture of silence that can still prevail across Northern Ireland around paramilitary violence and control.

Madeleine Hughes

Following the presentation of the findings and recommendations outlined in the research report, delegates participated in small group discussions, to further unpack the themes outlined above. The following questions were considered:

  • What do we already know about how coercive control impacts on different types of women?
  • Who else could be contributing to these discussions, that may not be involved at present? Are there voices that are missing from the wider discussion on the impact of paramilitary coercive control on women?
  • Do you recognise the “culture of silence” from your own work and/or experiences?
  • What is already happening to shed light on this issue? And
  • What next steps can we take to progress the issues highlighted
Lucy Geddes

A summary of the key issues highlighted include:

Paramilitary Approaches      Violence and coercive control against women, is an intentional and organised strategy used by paramilitaries. It is therefore distinct from domestic violence and needs to be better understood at all levels.

Culture of Silence       This is embedded across communities. This silence is not simply about ‘not going to the police’ – it’s deeper rooted than that – there is a fear that permeates, about who’s watching, who to trust, and how to keep safe.

Social Issues    Poverty is a huge factor that allows paramilitaries to thrive, and unfortunately Government policies can often contribute to keeping women in poverty – those impacted the most by this coercive control, are much more likely to be poor. Paramilitaries can step in and meet the needs of desperate people at the most desperate of times.

Honest Conversations           There needs to be careful consideration and honest conversations about the groups that are currently funded. The influence, impact, and involvement that some personnel continue to have on paramilitary activities, have a detrimental impact on different women and girls. There is also an overlap between paramilitaries and organised crime gangs – however the terminology of paramilitary can buy social capital and can somehow legitimise socially sanctioned ‘paramilitary’ violence.

Disrupting the Profiteering   Recognition that an effective way to combat paramilitary influence and activities, would be to diminish their profit opportunities, for example identifying ways of taking drugs out of paramilitary control through decriminalising.

Prevalence of gender-based violence in Northern Ireland In comparison to other parts of Europe, the rates of violence against women and girls is higher in this region. Participants reflected on reasons why this might be, including our ‘militarised’ society, and whether hypermasculinity is sufficiently challenged. Is this experience replicated in both CNR/PUL communities?

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

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