The Wave Trauma Centre, with financial assistance provided by the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, commissioned a study and documentary in order to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of those injured as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The study was commissioned from the University of Surrey who made contributions in kind of the time of the Principal Investigator, Marie Breen Smith. Northern Visions was commissioned to complete the accompanying film.
The conflict in Northern Ireland, often referred to as the Troubles, lasted from the late 1960s until the mid to late 1990s, with violent attacks continuing beyond the formal ending of the conflict with the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Continuing, albeit lower, levels of violence are as a result of two things: the activities of dissident groups who do not support the Agreement; and internecine feuding, particularly amongst Loyalist paramilitary groups.
The main protagonists in the conflict were: the Republican paramilitaries, who largely focussed their attacks on the security forces, the police, the British Army including their local regiments, and on feuding with other Republican groups; the Loyalist paramilitaries who saw their role as ‘taking the war to the IRA’ but who also conducted random assassinations of Catholics and feuding with other Loyalist groups; and the security forces, whose attention was largely focussed on Republican paramilitaries and whose casualties were largely drawn from the Catholic population.
In all, approximately 3,700 people were killed in the period from 1969 to 1998, putting the death rate on a par with that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since the population of Northern Ireland is small, comprising between 1.5 and 1.7 million during the period of the conflict.
The documentary examines:
- The needs of individuals who were injured in the Troubles and those of their families, particularly their carers who are usually family members;
- The difficulty of defining injury. A working definition of ‘Life threatening or disfiguring physical injury’ was adopted as the primary inclusion criteria for participants in the study;
- Psychological injuries were also included, but only when suffered by those meeting the primary inclusion criteria above.