Loyalist and Republican Perspectives on Educational Underachievement in Northern IrelandResearch Report
Over twenty years since the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the Troubles continue to cast a shadow over Northern Ireland in many different respects. Cycles of disadvantage and poverty within the communities most affected by the conflict are reflected in low levels of educational achievement, high unemployment, entrenched criminality and continued paramilitary activity. This small-scale pilot study, conducted in autumn 2020, examines the links between educational underachievement and social disadvantage in the context of Northern Ireland’s loyalist and republican communities. It draws on focus groups involving loyalist community activists (including former prisoners) and members of Coiste Na nlarchimí, a coordinating body for groups and projects providing services to republican ex-prisoners and their families.
Using a Bourdieusian theoretical framework, the report unpacks the salient points of similarity and difference in the reported educational experiences of loyalist and republican interviewees, and in their perspectives on how best to address educational underachievement within their communities. In doing so, it provides a basis for further work to understand the educational experiences and perspectives of loyalist and republican activists, as well as young people most at risk of involvement in paramilitarism. Such work is vital if our society is to unleash the transformative ‘liberating force of education’ to create a truly equitable education system to benefit all our children and young people within a more peaceful and prosperous society.