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Young People and Interfaces November 2012

T: 028 9074 2682 Email: j.bell@conflictresearch.org.uk Web: www.conflictresearch.org.uk


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Institute for Conflict Research North City Business Centre 2 Duncairn Gardens Belfast BT15 2GG

John Bell

YOUNG PEOPLE AND INTERFACES

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YOUNG PEOPLE AND INTERFACES

Contents
Executive Summary 1. Introduction 2. Young People, Public Space and the Interface 3. Living at the Interface Discussion and Key Findings References 04 07 10 14 30 35

YOUNG PEOPLE AND INTERFACES

Executive Summary
The Institute for Conflict Research (ICR) was commissioned early in 2012 to conduct a process of engagement with young people living in interface areas across Belfast. This process aimed to assess their views on the impact that living at an interface has on their daily lives, and how they would like to be included in dialogue around interface issues moving forwards. Approximately 60 young people in eight different interface areas participated in the research.

Although there were mixed views on whether or not interface barriers provide any sense of security, most young people believed that in the longer-term Northern Ireland would be a better place without walls and barriers separating communities. This is broadly in line from the survey of interface residents which was published by OFMdFM in 2012 (Byrne et al. 2012). Generally most young people spoke of living in a safer and better society than their parents did, and highlighted that the increasing signs of friendships and relationships developing between young people across the interface was evidence of this. However, many young people still felt that at some level their freedom of movement around the interface was restricted. This was particularly the case in terms of accessing shops, leisure facilities and services.

It is clear that many young people felt excluded from the decision making process on what happens in their area. Most young people would appreciate more opportunities to contribute to any forthcoming debates about developments at the interface. CRC and the ICP specifically can play an important role in helping facilitate the inclusion of young people in dialogue around interface issues, in line with the development of area based action plans to transform interface areas as identified in the Programme for Government. Such a consultation process may involve three core elements: 1. 2. 3. An initial process of information sharing with young people; Providing space for young people within an interface community to discuss their views on interface issues in a safe environment; and

Security 1. There were mixed views on the usefulness of the walls in terms of providing security. Young people who lived closer to the interface tended to believe that the walls provided some sense of security; 2.

While this has been a relatively small scale research project there are a number of key findings which may help inform policy and practice moving forwards. These findings include:

Young people from across the interface should be brought together to share their views on any potential developments.

Although broadly speaking most young people wanted the walls to come down at some stage, many felt that the time yet was not right and that more work had to be done to further improve community relations first;

YOUNG PEOPLE AND INTERFACES

Community relations 3. Most young people however believed that relations between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were better now than they ever had been and that they were less sectarian than their parents and grandparents generation; 4. In line with this, there were signs of some cross-community friendships and even relationships developing among young people from different areas and different communities.

5. 6.

At times some young people differentiated between young people from the Other side whom they knew and thought were ok when compared to the general Other.

7.

Most young people felt they had limited opportunities to meet, interact and become friends with young people from the Other community. Even young people who had participated in school cross-community activities tended to feel that these were not sustained enough to have much of a lasting impact; It must be noted that the definition of what it means to have a friend from a different community is important. At times some young people talked about their friends from the Other community, when in actual fact a more appropriate term would be that they knew someone from the Other community. This should perhaps be borne in mind when reviewing statistics on the numbers of young people who have friends across the community divide; Social media was highlighted as having both positive and negative consequences on community relations. While it was a way to make friends, at times various social media sources had been used to increase tensions or organise fights;

8.

Perceptions of safe/unsafe space 9. While some young people reported feeling much safer in crossing the interface than they did even last year, the spatial patterns of many young people, and in particular young males, remain impacted upon by the location of an interface. Time of day, year and personal experience all impacted upon movement around the interface. The interface was felt to be more permanent at night, during the marching season and if a young person had prior experience of being verbally abused or beaten up due to their community background; 10. A number of young people stated that they developed their knowledge of where to go and not to go from their parents, wider family and friends;

11. 12. 13. 14.

Those young people who had traversed the interface and went in to the territory of the Other felt more confident to keep doing so;

However, there was also evidence of a number of young people actively challenging where they had been told was safe and unsafe space;

For some young people walking around their area in school uniform was less of an issue than it used to be. However, a small number of young participants felt there were still issues with regards to their uniform publicly identifying their community background; Various programmes seek to encourage the development of relationships which will increase levels of confidence to cross the interface. While there was clearly evidence of this, it remains the case that some young people will cross the interface as part of a structured group rather than with their own friends on their own initiative;
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15.

Interface Violence and Policing 16. While most participants felt that those young people who got involved in interface violence did so for fun to relieve boredom, this also tended to be more focused on the motivations of our community. As such the motivations of young people from the Other community were viewed as more sectarian in origin; 17. Youth and interface workers talked about the role of young people from hinterland communities in interface violence. This is significant given that we know little about how far the impact of an interface ripples out in to neighbouring communities;

It remains the case that for some young people living at interfaces, certain shops and services are perceived to be off-limits if they are perceived to be located in the territory of the Other community;

18. 19. 20.

A number of both Catholic and Protestant young people believed that in a riot situation the police treated their community unfairly compared to the Other community;

Several youth and interface workers were also concerned that the police in their opinion did not have a standardised protocol from which to engage with young people on the streets;

Transforming the interface 21. The majority of young people want to be included in the discussion about what happens next to make their areas better places to live. The area based action plans envisaged in the Programme for Government (OFMdFM 2011) may provide a means in which young people can be included in the consultation process moving forward. 22. CRC and the ICP are well placed to identify young people in local communities and provide them with information about potential developments in interface areas. The three phased approach to consultation may provide an appropriate means of properly consulting with young people and including them in the decision making process with regards to interface issues.

Perceptions of the police were also impacted upon by the moving on of young people from various public spaces. This also fed in to a general view among many young people that they are unfairly treated when compared to adults using public space;

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1. Introduction
The Institute for Conflict Research (ICR) was commissioned by the Community Relations Council (CRC) in December 2011 to conduct a process of engagement with young people and youth leaders living at a number of key interfaces in Belfast.1 Engagement with young people was specifically identified by both the Interface Working Group (IWG) and the Interface Community Partners (ICP) as being a crucial next step in terms of working with those individuals who live in interface areas at the Challenge of Change Conference organised by CRC in 2011.2 In fact, as far back as 1998, the Belfast Interface Project argued that direct engagement with young people to listen to what they are saying was a prerequisite to improving the quality of life for all at the interface (BIP 1998).

1.1 Methodology This research project has sought to gauge the views and opinions of a small number of youth leaders and interface workers informally alongside more formal focus group discussions with approximately 60 young people in eight interface areas across Belfast. These focus group discussions included mixed groups alongside single identity Protestant and Catholic groups of young people, both male and female. The young participants ranged in age from 14 to 21, although the majority were aged between 15 and 18. With the permission of the young participants and youth leaders, discussions were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. All comments have been anonymised to protect the identities of the young people. Young people were consulted in eight different interface locations across north, south, east and west Belfast.5 A consultation event was also held in the MAC Arts Centre in Belfast on the 25th September 2012, which brought together both the groups of young people who had been consulted during the research as well as new groups who had not been involved with the initial process. Eleven different organisations were invited to bring young people to the event, with seven organisations bringing young people on the night itself. The aim of the event was to provide young people with a summary of the research
1 2 3 4 5 For the purposes of this paper we are adopting Neil Jarmans definition of an interface as the conjunction or intersection of two or more territories or social spaces, which are dominated, contested or claimed by some or all members of the differing ethno-national groups (Jarman 2004: 7). An interface is therefore a product of a process of contest over domination of a social space and this contest contains the fear, threat or actual use of physical forms of violence (Jarman 2005). In the aftermath of the interface wall being built in the grounds of Hazelwood Integrated Primary, the Community Relations Council (CRC) established the Interface Working Group (IWG) in November 2007. An IWG Community Partners (IWGCP) group was established in Belfast to support the work of the IWG and act as a conduit between communities and the statutory sector. See the Young Life and Times results for 2010 online at http://www.ark.ac.uk/ylt/results/ Accessed February 20th 2012. See, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm Accessed 27th July 2012. The locations selected for analysis included those areas with permanent physical structures alongside those areas which are still considered to be interface areas but do not have physical barriers separating communities. This would include areas such as Skegoneill-Glandore in North Belfast where the roundabout is considered to be the demarcating line or interface.

This process is particularly timely given that the Programme for Government recognised the need to engage with individuals living in interface areas moving forward (OFMdFM 2011). It is clear that if local area action plans are to be devised with a view to transforming and ultimately reducing or removing interface barriers in the future, then young people need to be included in this process of dialogue moving forward. Given that 39% of 16 year olds surveyed in the Young Life and Times3 survey in 2010 felt that in five years time community relations would be better than they are today, now is perhaps the time to begin to include young people in a discussion about how best these relations can be improved with them fully involved in the process. This greater inclusion of young people in decision making processes, and in particular respect for their views, is one of the four core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.4

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The purpose of the initial focus group discussions was to explore what life is like for young people living in interface areas. In particular we sought to assess attitudes to living in their local area, perceptions of safety and the role of barriers in terms of providing security, views on any impacts that living at an interface may have on their daily lives, and thoughts as to what needs to happen in the future with regards to developing interface areas. During the course of the research, where possible focus groups were organised in relatively small groups of young people (between 5-8 persons) to facilitate conversations where all of the young participants felt comfortable becoming involved. One focus group however was mixed and consisted of more than 10 young Protestants and Catholics, male and female. It became apparent in this group that the most assertive or dominant voices were those of young Catholic males, and in particular young Protestant females were reticent to be drawn into the conversation. In this instance the young females in question had to be gently encouraged to give their opinion when they felt comfortable in doing so. This firstly highlights the power dynamics that can underpin structured discussions and also indicates that in terms of numbers engaging in focus groups, smaller groups often lead to more indepth and better quality discussion. It also indicates that gender, age, community background and individual confidence can all impact upon a young persons participation in discussion, and it is worth bearing this in mind in particular when either mixed focus groups of Catholics and Protestants or young males and females are being organised. A few dominant voices prevalent amongst one gender or community background can make others less comfortable about speaking openly.

findings with a view to them putting forward their own ideas on how they could be more included in dialogue and consultation around interface issues.

This small research project has attempted to draw upon the approach utilised by the new sociology of childhood which views children and young people as competent actors in their own right (Leonard 2006a: 228; James and Prout 1990). Referring to young people as the future can at times ignore their role in the present, and dismisses their views as only potentially and not actually relevant to the contemporary situation (Smyth and Scott 2000: 113). As such young people are often either demonised or portrayed as victims without agency,6 perhaps most visibly so by the media (Andersson and Lundstrom 2007).7 In the Northern Irish context, such negative associations which often associate young people and violence were very evident during the television coverage of the riots at the Lower Newtownards Road/Short Strand interface in June 2011. There has been a plethora of research conducted on issues impacting upon residents in interface areas, and those studies which have focused on young people have tended to specifically focus on the relationship between interface areas, young people and violence (Jarman and OHalloran 2000; 2001; Byrne et al. 2005; Hansson 2005). While not shying away from engaging with these issues, this process aimed to be slightly more open-ended and hopes to shed some light on the views of a limited number of young people on what life is like for them growing up in interface areas in 2012.

A Youthnet consultation response in April 2011 to the proposed community safety strategy talks of young people still being talked about as if a problem to be solved. The document argues that where this negative stereotyping remains in place it will have an adverse impact on children and young people in terms of criminalisation and unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system. The response is available online at http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/public-consultations/archive-consultations/consultation_on_a_new_community_safety_strategy_for_ni/youthnet.pdf Accessed 28th March 2012. See, Andersson, G., and Lundstrom, T. Teenagers as Victims in the Press. In, Children and Society, Volume 21 (2007) pp. 175188.

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1.2 Structure of the report Section two of the report provides a brief overview of some of the existing literature on interface related issues, while section three documents some of the key themes emerging in discussions with young people. Section four concludes the report with a brief discussion of some of the key issues in terms of engaging with young people in interface areas moving forward.

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2. Young People, Public Space and the Interface


2.1 Young People and Public Space Children and young people experience greater difficulties in laying claim to public space compared to adults (Leonard 2006a: 227; Childress 2004). This is in part related to the broader power structures in society,8 and in a context in which groups of young people or hoodies using public space are to be feared and demonised (Meek 2008: 1225; Kraack and Kenway 2002; Valentine 1996).9 In the Northern Irish context due to perceived threats from the Other community, while it may make sense for teenagers from Catholic and Protestant communities to move around in relatively homogenous groups in terms of providing a sense of safety, this simultaneously feeds into and (re)produces negative evaluations of the Other (Leonard 2008: 484-485). Despite the negative connotations which have tended to have been rather pejoratively applied to young peoples use of public space, belonging to the neighbourhood is an important part of the development of a sense of individual and communal identity. Close ties within a locality can give young people little reason to venture out of their area, and friends and family are an important aspect of local culture (Laughlin and Johnson 2011: 450). As such, belonging to the neighbourhood or a variant of what Webster (2003) termed neighbourhood nationalism can provide a sense of belonging which in and of itself is not necessarily a negative development - where difficulties arise in the Northern Ireland context is where locality, ethnicity and territory intersect to powerful effect (Healy 2006: 107).

2.2 Young People and Interfaces As far back as 1998 BIP noted that children and young people in interface areas are particularly vulnerable to sectarian violence, intimidation and harassment, and can be exposed to such dangers on their way to school, going to the shops, or playing near the interface. Childrens lives can therefore be severely restricted by their difficulty in travelling out of their area or bringing friends into their own area (BIP 1998: 7).

A survey conducted by Byrne et al. (2005) revealed that the fears of some young people in terms of going into areas dominated by members of the Other community were not necessarily unfounded.10 More than one quarter (26%) of young people had felt intimidated travelling to and from their schools in North Belfast, while 51% had experienced an incident of violence and/or threatening behaviour while travelling to and from school.11

8 9 10 11

See, Arefi and Triantafillou (2005); and Laughlin and Johnson (2011). In Rosie Meeks study in England, young men reported hanging out on the streets or public places more than did young girls (Meek 2008: 127). The survey was of 2,486 young people aged between 14-17 in North Belfast. In 2004, 6% of young people surveyed as part of the Young Life and Times study felt they had been injured as a result of a sectarian incident (8% of males and 4% females) (ARK 2004).

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The impact of segregation and sectarianism can greatly impact upon the life choices of a young person living in an interface area.12 A research study by Owen Hargie et al. (2006) found evidence of a double penalty facing young people living in interface areas of Belfast.13 This double penalty is not only linked to the levels of poverty associated with living in areas of multiple deprivation, but also involves the impact of sectarianism and segregation, which makes young people in interface areas more vulnerable to social exclusion (Roche 2008: 75; Hargie et al. 2006; Smyth et al. 2004 and 1998; and McVicar 2000).14 2.3 Building, Bolstering or Bridging Boundaries? While concepts of safety and risk have emerged as central concerns in modern childhood,16 Madeleine Leonard asserts that these issues of safety and risk take on new meanings in areas which have suffered from prolonged conflict (Leonard 2007: 432).

Previous research has also revealed that interface boundaries may become more porous or permanent at certain times of the day, week or year particularly with regards to the marching season or specific sporting events (Hamilton et al. 2008; Jarman 2005). The marginal location of interfaces and the relative lack of an adult presence turns them into spaces and places that children and young people are both relegated to and, to, some extent, can define for themselves and claim as their own (Jarman and OHalloran 2001: 5).

She suggests that some spatial boundaries can be permeable rather than fixed, with young people giving inconsistent accounts of boundaries and where they felt safe going to (Leonard 2008). She notes that those children who lived closer to an interface wall were more inclined to express heightened feelings of fear and uncertainty, and girls were more inclined than boys to suggest that they could move more easily across the interface (Leonard 2007: 436).

Young peoples perceptions of risk may at times be based on what they have learnt from their parents and siblings. Schubotz and Devine (2004) found that young people in Northern Ireland believed that their parents were the biggest influence on their views about the Other community, while Bell et al. (2010) found that parents and family were two of the three main influences on what young people learn about Irish history.17 However, Leonard asserts that young people do not uncritically accept narratives passed down from their parents and family with regards to safe and unsafe spaces (Leonard 2010a: 103).

2.4 Young People and Attitudes Quantitative data gathered on an annual basis by the Young Life and Times survey appears to show some progress over the past decade with regards to the attitudes of 16 year olds to community relations issues.18 However young people still tend to remain more negative in attitudes in survey data when compared to older generations.

13 Rosellen Roche (2008) referred to an analogous position as one of Bounded Contentment in which young people restrict themselves to limited future pathways. In her study, Roche found that just under two-thirds of the young people had no need to mingle with members of the opposite community and felt safer staying within areas that they knew. 14 Osborne et al. (2006) found evidence of limited geographic mobility which restricted the areas where young people were prepared to travel to work. 15 This terminology has been adapted directly from Madeleine Leonards article (2008). 16 See in particular, Backett-Milburn and Harden (2004) and Valentine and McKendrick (1997). 17 In 2003, 47% of young people surveyed in the YLT stated that their family were the most influential source of knowledge about the Other community, in 2007 this figure stood at 50% (ARK 2003b; 2010b). 18 There was no YLT survey held in 2011 due to a lack of funding which is why 2010 statistics have been used as the most up to date information. It should also be noted that these surveys reflect the views of approximately 1,000 16 year olds across Northern Ireland and not specifically young people living in interface areas. Prior to 2003 the survey sought the views of 12-17 year olds, but from 2003 onwards only 16 year olds were targeted, in part due to ethical issues and secondly to better standardise questions for one age cohort.

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When asked if they would prefer to live in a neighbourhood of their own religion only, in 2003 35% of 16 year olds stated a preference to live in a single identity area with 53% preferring to live in a mixed religion community.19 In 2010 however 25% of young people expressed a desire to live in a single identity area while 61% stated they would prefer to live in a mixed religion neighbourhood (ARK 2003; 2010b). While this would appear to indicate progress in terms of the attitudes of 16 year olds, in comparison in 2010 only 12% of adults expressed a preference to live in a single identity neighbourhood, almost half the number of 16 year olds who desired to live in such a neighbourhood (ARK 2010a).

Young people with the most positive views of the Other community are often those individuals who have had contact or some form of interaction with the Other community (Leonard 2010a).21 In such instances those young people who had come in contact with young people from the Other community were better placed to challenge simplistic stereotypes of different communities,22 although research has found that it is very difficult for young people to remain in contact after returning home from cross-community trips as a result of both peer and community pressure (Smyth et al. 2004: 31). Although some of these issues indicate more positive developments in terms of attitudes amongst some young people, it is also important to consider some of the more negative impacts with regards to young people and violence at the interface.

Contemporary qualitative research however would appear to provide some evidence to suggest that, compared to their parents, young people hold more favourable attitudes to cross-community friendships and cross-community marriages, with teenagers believing that their own views on cross-community friendships and partnerships would be much less prejudiced than those of their parents (Leonard 2010a).20 While most young people had no objections in principle to marrying across the divide, practical difficulties including deciding where to live, which religion if any to bring up children, and where to send them to school all resulted in difficulties for young people in considering a future cross-community relationship. The structures of division in terms of residential and educational segregation alongside the requirement of peer approval for cross-community liaisons invariably meant that opportunities for young people to meet across the divide were limited, and ultimately falling in love for the most part occurred within rather than across community groups (Leonard 2010a: 103; Collins 2003).

2.5 Recreational Rioting? While the focus of this project is not specifically on young people and violence, it would be disingenuous to conduct a research project looking at the experiences of young people in interface areas without considering the role of some young people in violence at the interface, or what has been termed recreational rioting (Jarman and OHalloran 2000; 2001). This rioting often takes place within the context of the marching season, but also during the summer when young people are off school and long summer days lead into long, bright nights (Jarman and OHalloran 2000; 2001).

19 Young Protestants were more inclined to veer towards preferring to live amongst their own community (42% compared to 33%) (ARK 2003). 20 However, it must also be pointed out that to suggest that one is more progressive that others is perhaps not surprising, and this does not necessarily mean that this is true. The perception is however an interesting one. 21 In 2007, young people were asked through the Young Life and Times whether or not relations between communities would be improved if there were more cross-community projects. While 36% of respondents strongly agreed and 46% agreed with this sentiment, young males were less likely to be in favour of more cross-community activity. So too were young Protestants. While 26% of young males strongly agreed that more cross-community activity would improve relations, 44% of young females felt this way. Similarly, while 43% of young Catholics strongly agreed with this, 30% of young Protestants did likewise. In 2007, 17% of young people strongly agreed and 55% stated that they felt awkward at times at cross-community events because they were expected to get on with other people they did not know (and not for sectarian reasons) (ARK 2007). 22 However at times cross-community contact also endorsed rather than challenged views of the Other.

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In part, the ambivalent attitude of some adults to violence has been blamed for on the one hand legitimising political violence and using young people as foot-soldiers as and when required, while at other times moving them away from the interface based upon the premise that they are engaged in anti-social behaviour.24 Undoubtedly this can add to a sense of disillusionment and alienation from wider society (Jarman 2005; Byrne 2005). Indeed, a powerful theme emerging in many research projects engaging with marginalised young people is that they very often feel disenfranchised, powerless and peripheral to any decision-making conducted on their behalf within communities (Radford et al. 2005: 365; Smyth et al. 2004: 60). Summary It is clear that interface areas remain the most visible reminder of Northern Irelands protracted conflict and the physical barriers are unfortunately a legacy of sectarian division which have proved much more difficult to remove than they were to build. Interfaces tend to be those areas in greatest socio-economic need and those areas which suffered the most incidents of violence during the Troubles. While young people growing up in an inner-city area anywhere in the world often face difficulties with how they negotiate public space whether its in Brooklyn, Birmingham or Belfast, those young people living in interface areas in Northern Ireland often face a myriad of additional difficulties associated with sectarianism and segregation.

As such, young people have been identified as one of the three main types of protagonist in interface violence (Jarman 2006).23 Although arguments persist over whether the motivations of young people engaged in rioting are recreational, sectarian or a combination of many factors (Leonard 2010b), there is a general consensus that even recreational exchanges can have a significant impact on community relations in interface areas and beyond (Jarman and OHalloran 2001: 3).

The following section documents the findings of the discussions and aims to stimulate some debate around the key issues which are coming directly from the voices of young people themselves.

23 The other two being anti-social elements and people from outside the immediate area (Jarman 2006). 24 Although young males are often those most likely to be engaged in interface violence, Jarman (2005) has developed a six-fold typology of young women who engage in interface violence. This may be in the capacity of observer, victim, monitor, restrainer, cheerleader and participant.

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3. Living at the Interface


The following section is structured thematically and aims to document some of the key themes which emerged in the discussions with young people as well as the less formal engagements with youth and interface workers.

3.1 Terminology At the outset it is also important to recognise that while the majority of young people are familiar with the term interface, and felt that it referred to a border between two communities or division more generally, a very small number of young participants had not previously heard of the term. This is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it means that in terms of engaging with young people researchers and those in the community and voluntary sector and beyond must be careful to not further entrench an us and them mindset. Secondly, it is important that in its usage the term does not become a mere byword for an area which only experiences violence with neighbouring communities. While in many cases this can indeed be the case, this restricts the focus to some of the more negative connotations which can be associated with living in interface areas. As such, some young people preferred to focus on my area as a point of reference for where they lived as they felt that the term interface was often predicated on these notions of tension or violence. 3.2 Views on the walls While the vast majority of young people believed that one could live in an interface area if there were no physical barriers or walls separating communities, for many the defining feature of an interface area was that there was a physical barrier separating communities. In general, young people were very aware of where the main interfaces were in relation to their local area, however on one occasion several young people were unsure as to where some of the barriers in their community were located:

There were very mixed views among young people as to the actual purpose which interface barriers served. While the majority were aware of the reasons as to why the walls had been put up in the first place in terms of stopping the fighting, there were differing views as to whether or not the walls continued to serve any purpose. While one youth worker felt that the walls limit young peoples ability to metaphorically see life beyond their own environment, some young participants felt that the walls were now pointless and ugly and just make it worse: Its just sort of excluding the communities in a way. Like it doesnt do anything (Young Catholic male). I just think it blocks communities. It doesnt make you any safer (Young Protestant male).

that big green fence? Are you talking about the one beside the school? I just thought that was a wee entry (Young Catholic female).

A small number of young people felt that as they were used to the presence of the walls, they were therefore relatively meaningless to them: At various times young people debated amongst themselves as to whether or not they felt any safer living in their area as a result of the walls:
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The walls dont really bother us you get used to them (Young Protestant female).

YOUNG PEOPLE AND INTERFACES

I think they do (stop violence). Like the whole way up Duncairn Gardens theres a wall, like I think it does (stop violence) (Young Catholic female 3). Young people in the New Lodge discussed the opening up of the gate in Alexandra Park which some saw as a positive development, although others were concerned that it could lead to increased levels of violence between local Protestants and Catholics:

But they dont even go there, they stand (and riot) at the traffic lights (Young Catholic female 1).

In West Belfast young people similarly discussed their views on what would happen in their area if there was no wall. There were differing views, with several young males in particular believing that the lack of a wall would mean that they would feel less safe, while others, and more so young females, believed that people should have to get used to living without interface barriers: Yeah, for the first while, for the first year like, it would be all riots and all, but after a while people would get sick of it and move on (Young Catholic 2). Another young person felt that while it may be less problematic if there was no physical barrier today, not that long ago the scenario of not having any walls would have been unthinkable: I think they should have to get used to it (Young Protestant female 1). There would be murder (Young Catholic male 1).

Yeah, I dont think thats going to work. Everybody just wants to go to the park for a riot in the summer (Young Catholic female 4).

But in the summer its going to be open completely I think there could be murder when that opens up (Young female 3).

Those young people who lived closer to an interface wall were more inclined to feel that the walls provided some security and that they would feel unsafe, or at the very least, uncomfortable if the walls were to come down. Young people who lived further away from the interface recognised that their views may perhaps differ from those who lived in the shadow of the wall: well, we dont live right beside a wall either. Im guessing people who get vandalised all the time would like to see a peace-wall. Like before the wall was put up Im sure they felt really in danger. But now there is less damage done to their houses and stuff (Young Catholic female).

Not any more (would there be violence if the walls came down). But a couple of years ago I thought if the wall came down it would be really bad because there was a time when everyone was meeting up to riot (Young Catholic female).

However, even those young people who wanted the walls down felt that this would be very difficult as there are still those who are stuck in the past: Other young people, and particularly young males, believed that if the walls were to come down tomorrow, it would not make a difference in terms of improving levels of interaction between communities. In this regard it was felt that there was still much work to do before any walls came down to prepare the ground and continue to improve relations between communities: People will see it as a safety measure, the old people(Young Protestant male)

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Perhaps most negatively the several young males in this focus group felt that even if the walls came down they would still never venture in to the nearby Protestant area, indeed as one said, you would probably stay on the other side of the footpath. A young Protestant interviewed across the other side of this interface similarly agreed with this sentiment stating, I wouldnt go down there ever, even if there was no wall. Young females tended to be slightly more optimistic in their assessment, but nonetheless tended to agree that the walls were a symptom of deeper societal division rather than the causes.

it would not make a difference. It would just make you be able to see in to (name of area) maybe. Literally thats it(Young Catholic male).

3.3 Community relations A clear trend which emerged in each focus group was that the vast majority of young participants in general feel that they are living in a better Northern Ireland than the one their parents grew up in: This was a feeling which was generally shared by youth and interface workers, although a caveat was often added that while there were probably more interactions now between young people across the interface, this still remains the exception rather than the norm. Echoing some of Leonards findings (2010b), many young people believed that as they were growing up in a better society they held less sectarian views than their parents: Its way better. I feel much safer now than a couple of years ago (Young Catholic female).

I think its easier for us because we dont really get involved in all the religion. We wouldnt be as bad as our parents would be, just fighting and all that there. Like if we start arguing about something we wouldnt fall out after it (Young Catholic male). now (at 15-16) you are starting to understand more about Catholics and Protestants. And when youre that age (10-11) you are hearing more negative than positive about the Protestants. Because you are only starting to learn about it then and you learn about the bad things before the good (Young Catholic female).

However, a small number of young people tended to question whether or not their generation was indeed less sectarian than that of their parents, and one young female suggested that at times young people could be just as sectarian as some members of the older generations, without necessarily knowing why: I dont think were less sectarian. I think when your mummy and daddy grow up they mature more, but we are being born in to it so we dont even understand why we are fighting. We just go along with it anyway (Young Protestant female).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the space which has been provided by the relative lack of violence was felt to have helped improve the situation on the ground. Interestingly, alongside this view of the macropolitical situation helping improve relations, a small number of young people felt that older teenagers had played a role in terms of setting an example to younger children in their communities. When asked why they felt the situation was quieter at the interface in their area, several young people referred to the role that older teenagers had played in terms of acting as positive role models and volunteering in their communities to mentor younger children and encourage them to either move away from the interface or take part in diversionary programmes in community centres.

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This point is an important one in that young people acknowledged that when they were younger, their older brothers and sisters, peer group and parents were very influential in helping them define which spaces were safe and unsafe in their area and in the words of one young person, the younger ones in this area really look up to the older ones. However, as Leonards research suggests, many young people did not necessarily uncritically accept narratives of safe and unsafe spaces which were told to them by others. Indeed, one young female talked about her mum still worrying for her safety when she crossed the interface to take part in a cross-community group which did not put her off attending, while another spoke of her grandfathers concern for her safety when working in a Protestant area which again did not stop her from completing her work experience: Its different though, because when we used to go up I remember telling my mummy and she was cracking up in case something happened to me for going up there. Shed still be the same now(Young Protestant female).

Another young female recounted that despite her parents protests that she not get the bus home in her school uniform, because she had now done it and nothing had happened, she had the confidence to keep doing it:

I did my work experience in school in (name of organisation) and my mummy was alright with it but my granda was like Be careful like you could have recognised me a mile off. And when I was getting a taxi from my local place I would have asked for a taxi to the Shankill Road and they asked Whats your name? and I said (name), and they thought I was winding them up. So they took down the top of their sign and said they would be sitting outside, As soon as you see my car bounce in. And he had to drive a different way. The taxi man was scared but I wasnt scared. But my granda would have been You be very careful over there, but my mummy was dead on. And I didnt really mind (Young Catholic female).

Nevertheless, some young people did feel that their parents, friends and family had influenced their perceptions of safe and unsafe spaces: You always grow up hearing never walk past this area because you will get jumped. Its never you might, its always you will (Young Catholic male).

I would always be told never to wear my school uniform because its a tricolour, its green, white and orangeMy mummy and daddy would even hate me coming home from school, they would always make sure they know where I am because I get the number 2 buses. And nearly all of them go to all Protestant areas apart from the 2a. And I dont always get that, I sometimes just jump on to it. I am confident myself. I dont mind walking up to (name of nearby Protestant area) on my own, I dont know, I am just confident that nothing would happen to me (Young Catholic female).

For some young people from a Catholic background, the recent beating of a Catholic boy in South Belfast in which he was subsequently dumped in a wheelie bin25 was referred to by their parents as being reminiscent of some of the loyalist romper room murders of Catholics which occurred during the Troubles. This incident indicated to one young person that it would be dangerous for him to stray into a Protestant area. However, perceptions of safety varied amongst young people, and even one teenager who had been beaten up at the interface felt comfortable walking up and down past the same spot every day.
25 See the BBC news story, Film teen left for dead in sectarian attack. Published 10th January 2012. Available online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uknorthern-ireland-16483213 Accessed 1st May 2012.

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3.4 Cross-community relationships/friendships One issue which most young people felt was an indication that relations between communities were improving was that there were increasing signs of young people being involved in crosscommunity relationships. Indeed, several young participants spoke about going out with someone from the Other community: My girlfriends a Catholic like, shes from Poleglass (Young Protestant male). I used to go with a wee girl from the Shankill (Young Catholic male).

Despite the general perception that community relations had improved, there remain specific events which were felt to increase tensions between communities such as parades, the flying of flags and soccer matches such as Rangers-Celtic or Linfield-Cliftonville in the context of North Belfast. While a number of young Protestants could not understand why some members of the Catholic community would object to Orange Order and loyalist band parades, similarly some young people from a Catholic background could not understand why some Protestants would want to parade. As such the marching season was reported as a time when the potential for violence at the interface increased and a number of young people reported feeling more wary of going near the interface when parades or football matches were scheduled.

However, on a small number of occasions several young people reported difficulties within their own community if they made friends or dated a young person from a different background. One young person who had a close Protestant friend referred to being called a hun-lover by some of her Catholic friends in her area, while a young Protestant male recalled being teased by his friends for attending an integrated school with Catholics. In relation to the young Catholic female quoted above who dated a young Protestant male, the relationship ended due to wider peer and community pressures: I felt safe because I knew it was him and he wouldnt let anything happen to me, know what I mean? But the other ones in (name of area) said I was (name of former IRA member) daughter because thats my second name. And the UVF said to the UDA that I was (names) daughter (Young Catholic female).

I was going with a Protestant there for two months. And I was up there and he was in my house and all. I didnt care. From the Shankill. I was up there every weekend partying with them and all. And when I was going with my one I brought my friend up and she is still going with that Protestant now(Young Catholic female).

Another young Protestant noted that her sister was dating a young Catholic from across the interface which was fine, although in the early stages of the relationship he had to be careful coming in to the area because he was known to come from across the interface. As such several young people felt that community or peer pressure against relationships could be worse if girls brought boys in to their area rather than the other way round:

On a number of occasions in various different interface areas young people suggested that theres Catholics in our area every weekend partying, or theres loads of Protestants come in to our area, however there was a tendency to believe that they would be safer in our area than we would in theirs.
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My sisters boy(friend), he used to riot with ones in here. So whenever they first started going out he had to be careful. Like they didnt go outside or anything. He came to our house. She walked down and met him and then they walked up. Then they went in the house and never went out. Its easier for him now like, theyve been going out a while (Young Protestant female).

YOUNG PEOPLE AND INTERFACES

Rather interestingly young people could at times express some sectarian attitudes while at the same time dating someone from the Other community - however they qualified this by stating that their attitudes were limited to particular groups within the Other community, and in particular young males. As such a group of young males referred to their friends Catholic girlfriend as being dead on while talking at other times about young males from across the interface who they knew as fenians. In this instance some young people tended to differentiate between the good Catholics or Protestants they knew from the others that they didnt know: His girl is a Catholic, shes nice like. Were going to a party in her house at the weekend in (name of Catholic area). Shes different though, shes a Catholic, not a taig (Young Protestant male).

In this regard, at times various stereotypes were drawn upon to highlight perceived differences between young people from different communities: Yeah, its easier to tell the wee lads. Cos they always have blond tips (Young female 2). I would probably know if it was a wee lad if he was a Protestant (Young female 1).

Another group of young Protestants discussed what they felt were the differences between themselves and Catholics: Yeah, we overheard one of them talking the other day like Our wee Marty (puts on different Belfast accent) (Young Protestant Male 2) We can tell who is Catholic (Young Protestant male 1)

And they usually wear tracksuits more dont they? (Young Catholic female 3).

Perhaps more positively, other young people at times challenged such sectarianised stereotypes as well:

It should be noted however that despite evidence of some cross-community relationships, there were many young people who stated that they did not have any friends from the Other community, mainly because they believed that they did not have the opportunities to meet given that they went to different schools and lived in different areas. Even those young people who had been in contact with young people from the Other community through cross-community programmes in school tended to lose touch with them, which would appear to corroborate the findings of previous research (Smyth et al. 2004): Like you do cross-community work, but you never stay in touch with them. You only do it for a certain amount of months and then that would be it over, and you would probably never see them again (Young Catholic female).

but some of them have given their area a name cos theres good Protestants as well who you can be friends with (Young Catholic male).

It is also important to note that how one defines a friend is also crucial. While Madeleine Leonards research (2010c) indicated that 75% of young people referred to having a friend from the Other community, this tells us little about the nature of the relationship. During the course of the discussions several young people reported having friends from the Other community. When asked where they would hang out or what they would do together it became apparent that the term friend was being used when perhaps saying they knew someone from the Other community
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would have been more appropriate. It is important to bear this in mind when assessing statistics or survey data about cross-community friendships:

Young people also talked about the positive and negative aspects to using social media. On the one hand it allowed them to come into contact with young people from the Other community, make friends and even in rare instances, begin dating. For one youth worker in South Belfast, social media could allow young people to interact virtually with others in their own home which was a safer environment than doing so at the interface. However, the downside was there was an acknowledgement from young participants that Facebook, Twitter and texting were used at times to contact others across the interface to organise a fight or try and start a riot. There was also an apparent issue in parts of North and South Belfast with young people from different communities insulting members of the Other community who had taken their own lives, and this was believed to have been the source of an increase in tensions between some young people at the SuffolkLenadoon interface in particular. This was also the case in North Belfast: Remember that wee girl from the (name of area) killed herself she was only about 13? Then some ones made a fake name and covered her face in red, white and blue, it was terrible like (Young Catholic female 1).

I play with a rugby team and nearly everyone in it is CatholicAlthough I dont really know them outside the rugby (Young Protestant male).

3.5 Navigating the interface Despite the view that things were better and a small number of young people were moving across the interface into the Other community, the spatial patterns of young people clearly remain heavily influenced by the interface and many young people were still reluctant to venture in to areas of the Other community. Several youth workers referred to this as an ongoing issue in terms of the psychology of geographical boundaries which were now well established. Young males in particular seemed less likely to traverse the interface for fear of being beaten up. In South Belfast some young Protestants discussed how far into the nearby Catholic area they would venture: Aye, well theres a takeaway there on that road and I wouldnt go past it (Young Protestant male 2). I wouldnt go past Lidl like (Young Protestant male 1).

Yeah, and what do you call him, Ian Paisley, he was dying and that started a whole big ruckus on Facebook. Ive seen loads of fights on Facebook because of that (Young Catholic female 2).

In North Belfast, two Catholic young people were reluctant to venture on to the Shore Road which they perceived to be a predominantly Protestant area:

Discussions in North Belfast also focused on the use of the Waterworks. As such, some young people felt that the space in the park would be used differently depending on community background:

Id feel uncomfortable on the Shore Road, I just wouldnt walk about it. Id need some reason to go there, and ones from my school (integrated school) would know me as a Catholic (Young Catholic female).

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Some other young people referred to being scared to go to certain areas, but reported that these concerns were more to do with their personal safety rather than anything of a sectarian nature: I would feel safe during the day (at Duncairn Gardens) but not at night I wouldnt (Young Catholic female 4).

The Waterworks below the bridge is for Protestants, you wouldnt really go past that on your own. Where the bend is in the park, theres a hill and its usually full of them (Protestants) and they all stand there, so you cant really walk past (Young Catholic male).

Im scared to go to the Waterworks (Young Catholic female).

Those young people who had travelled into areas of the Other community unsurprisingly were those least likely to feel restricted in terms of where they went to:

But thats only because its all dark and theres no street lights, its scary that way. Not because a Prod is going to jump out and knife youthats why youre scared generally, not Protestants and that. Its because Duncairn Gardens is really dark with all the big houses with the windows out. Its not because of Protestants (Young Catholic female 2).

We did it before and it was ok. One time the bus wasnt on and we went up and got a few of the Protestant lads and brought them into Ballymurphy and showed them the murals and all. That was all right like. And we have been in Springmartin. We walked up to their club before as well (Young Catholic male). I can honestly say that I have walked from the town up the Springfield Road and no one has said anything to me (Young Protestant male). Remember we walked up the Shankill? Nothing happened to us (Young Catholic female).

For those young people who had safely gone across to the other side of the interface, this experience made them realise you are not going to get jumped every day like. The Ambassadors for Peace youth group involving Corpus Christi and Springmartin youth clubs was a good example of a project which aimed to improve relationships between young people and increase their feelings of safety around the interface. As part of the programme, for the past eighteen months young people from both communities have met with one another weekly, going in to one anothers areas and visiting each community centre. The young people felt that their participation in this group had provided them with the opportunity to go in to an area and meet people they would not normally have had the opportunity to meet: See before this group started I would never have went in to Springmartinif this group hadnt happened I still would probably never have been in Springmartin (Young Catholic male 1). I didnt even know where it was (Young Catholic male 2).

As a result of the ongoing contact, two girls in particular whose houses were back to back to one another on each side of the interface in West Belfast had become good friends and would now often go to one anothers areas, something that they would not have done prior to the programme. However at times even these young people in West Belfast who generally felt freer to move around the interface did so in a rather structured format with their youth club:
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I just knew the gates, didnt know who lived there, didnt know nothing about it (Young Catholic male 1).

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One young male spoke of his continuing reluctance to go in to the nearby Protestant area unless some of his new Protestant friends were with him:

If you were going in on your own it would be different like (Young Catholic male).

One cross-interface community organisation have been working in recent years to build relationships between young people. As a result of the engagement over the past two years in one interface location in North Belfast, a number of Protestant young people from one particular area reported feeling safer and would now use a local garage which they would not have done before as they had previously perceived it as Catholic territory. Indeed, some young Protestants now use a local drop-in centre which is also located in a predominantly Catholic area. As such improved relationships between some local young people across the interface led to them asking one another questions about their culture or religion, a process which one youth leader felt was a more natural development over time rather than part of a more artificial attempt to bring young people together prematurely. While these young people now used the shop at the garage on the Antrim Road in the evenings with their friends, again other young people who traversed the interface tended to do so as part of a more formalised youth group or with school, and they would not feel as comfortable doing so with their friends on their own initiative. At various times some young people also felt very aware of which parts of the area would be off-limits for individuals from their community, and felt they could tell someones community background based on how they moved around an area: Thats what I am saying walking up to the Antrim Road, thats how you know if youre Catholic or Protestant, what side of the road you walk onIf you walk on one side you are Protestant if you walk on the other you are a Catholic (Young Protestant male).

I would feel comfortable going in with ones from the other side, but I wouldnt feel comfortable going in with (another Catholic young person in the group). Just because we are both Catholic. Even though nothing would happen, youd just feel uneasy in case something happened (Young Catholic male).

3.6 Accessing services and facilities The restricted movement associated with living at an interface impacted upon the majority of young people, and it seemed to be the case that this impact was particularly significant for young people from what could be termed enclave interface communities such as Suffolk or Short Strand. For young males in Suffolk in particular, their dentists and GPs were all in Dunmurry and Finaghy and very few services in wider nationalist West Belfast on the Stewartstown Road and beyond were utilised. Rather than using the nearest leisure centre which was situated in Andersonstown, they spoke about travelling to Lisburn: We are surrounded basically...We cant go to certain places that the likes of them can. They can go up and round us. They dont necessarily have to walk down Blacks Road, its the quicker option, but they can walk round it (Young Protestant male).

These issues in terms of being able to tell someones community background impacted upon which services and facilities some young people felt they could access.

Youd stay on this side of the doctors (Young Catholic male).

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At the same time, some young Catholics of the Lower Whitewell area reported a reluctance to use Tescos in Newtownabbey given its close proximity to Rathcoole and most young people would not walk down the Shore Road to go in to town: And even when you are over at Tescos you keep your eyes open because thats where people get jumped most. Round that area and round Tesco garage (Young Catholic male 1).

Perhaps more positively a young person in the same focus group felt more comfortable accessing Abbeycentre now than they had done in the past: You used to be a wee bit cautious going over to Abbey(centre) but now you dont really. They (Protestants) always used to hang about at McDonalds (Young Catholic male 2).

Id go and be careful. Like I wouldnt go to Tescos on my own, I would make sure someone was with me (Young Catholic female).

Several young participants in this group did not use the Valley leisure centre given its close proximity to Rathcoole and they contrasted this with the sense of security they felt when using the gym at Bawnmore given that many of their friends and family from their community lived in the area. Conversely some young Protestants spoken to in Whitecity did not feel comfortable walking down the Whitewell Road to use shops or services there, although one young Protestant male did so as he attended school there and felt that he knew people well enough to feel safe. However, on going to visit his father in another interface area in Belfast he commented: I hate going through Short Strand. My dad lives up that direction. I know quite a lot of people there, my bus goes through the area. Some of them go to my school and some I know quite well. I would just keep my head down and never let on (Young Protestant male).

Elsewhere in North Belfast, some young Catholics from the New Lodge felt that KFC was closer to the Tigers Bay side of the interface, although they still reported using it. Several Catholic young people referred to wanting to use the new Grove Wellbeing Centre but felt unable to do so given the location. One young female in particular spoke of not using the Grove, Asda or Lidl given the fact that they were on what she saw as the Protestant side of the interface:

However, another young Catholic male interviewed in a different part of North Belfast did use the Grove and felt comfortable doing so.

You wouldnt be able to walk to it (the Grove) and Asda like to do shopping...My mummy walks up like. My mummy and my sister would get their shopping and walk back and its nothing. But I personally wouldnt. And Id love to be able to use the Grove (Young Catholic female).

Youth leaders and interface workers tended to highlight that there were still difficulties for many of their young people in terms of accessing particular shops and services depending on where they were located. In particular one youth worker from West Belfast felt that young people still tended to use shops located within their own side of the interface or alternatively would at times go out of their way to feel comfortable. Along these lines, one young Catholic male from West Belfast commented: Tesco Ballygomartin. I wouldnt use that oneI would go to the one way over at the Valley in Newtownabbey (Young Catholic male).

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It should be noted that while some young people reported difficulties in using particular shops or services given their location, other young people felt relatively unconcerned with where they could travel to, and a number of young people suggested that they even felt safe wearing their school uniform in public. They tended to contrast this to a few years ago when they would have been more wary of doing so: Yeah. I was down after school today and walked down to Tescos in my uniform (Young Protestant female).

This increasing sense of confidence for some young people to wear ones school uniform appeared to at one level be linked to the fact that levels of violence at the interface have significantly decreased. However, other young people reported ongoing difficulties in terms of school uniform clearly identifying community background:

Like I never think or it. Like I never think of Protestants. I just walk about (in uniform) (Young Catholic female).

3.7 Interface violence and Policing Although young people tended to be unaware of the term recreational rioting and several young people referred to wanting to defend their community if it was under attack, many felt that those young people who get involved in riots do so as a result of boredom or there being nothing to do. This particularly appeared to be the case for those in their mid-teens who had outgrown some of the more structured youth activities in their area. Some young people spoke of their excitement at participating in riots when they were younger, and now that they were a bit older they had matured and grown out of it. However, this sense that riots could develop out of boredom and for the craic tended to be more focused on our young people and as such the motivations of young people from the Other community who were involved in rioting were at times viewed as more sectarian in origin. This particularly appeared to be the case with regards the rioting in East Belfast in June 2011: Researcher Why do you think some young people rioted in East Belfast last summer? Was it for the craic? Yeah, something happened like the Protestants ran in or something and thats how it all kicked off (Young Catholic male). No, I think there was bitterness or something (Young Catholic female).

The young participants were subsequently asked to think about violence at the interface, why it occurred and what impact it had on their lives.

Our friend went up to Ligoniel and it was Protestants pushed themAnd this woman called my friend a slut when she was in her school uniform (Young Catholic female).

Youth workers also tended to focus on the recreational aspects of young people engaging in rioting, although several youth leaders also suggested that there were deeper reasons as to why some young people get involved in violence, including disputes over parades and protests, a perception they are defending their area and confused community leadership from adults. On a number of occasions both young participants and youth leaders spoke about the role of young people from outside the immediate interface area participating in violence. Indeed, the work at Skegoneill-Glandore Common Purpose interface group with young people on the Antrim Road who at times became involved in fights at the interface was an attempt to deal with these hinterland
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issues. This wider process of engagement with young people from surrounding areas was viewed as an important one in terms of improving the situation. With regards to attitudes towards the police, young people from both communities tended to believe that the police treated their community unfairly and were more lenient on young people from the Other community, particularly in a riot situation: They never go after the Catholics like when theres trouble, but they surround our area (Young Protestant male).

In South Belfast several young Protestant males referred to being moved on by the police from the interface even when they werent doing anything as local residents had reported anti-social behaviour in the area. Some young people found this perception that they were constantly up to no good if in public as unfair, particularly since they had little else to do but hang out on the streets with their mates: Theres nowhere for us to go together, like if we wanted to go out together, theres nowhere really for us to goWe would be in our own area constantly like if we werent in here (community centre) (Young Catholic male).

Up at the Valley, like there used to be riots up there on the pitches at the back of Longlands. And like the police had to drive through the alleyway to get to the Longlands ones, but Rathcoole is closer to where they were driving but they went straight to Longlands. So they would have got away (young Protestants). Thats a few years ago when I was there like (Young Catholic male).

But look at it, in the Strand, like all the Catholics got arrested not the ProtestantsI think the police are unfair to Catholics and stick up for Protestants moreLike they say that the police are 50/50 now but I dont think they are (Young Catholic female).

Indeed, there was a feeling amongst a sizeable number of young people across the areas that they were constantly being moved on by adults, and often the police, who were responding to complaints by residents:

At times this treatment tended to feed into a perception that many adults had little time for young people and saw them as a nuisance: They (adults) think were all hoods and rob grannies (Young Protestant male).

Wed walk up and down the Cavehill Road until the peelers tell us to move. Then we go down to the Spar and get moved, then you go somewhere else and get moved. Then we go to the shop and get moved. Then we go to the park which is a public park but they say we cant stay there (Young Catholic female).

Alongside the concerns over constantly being moved on by police, some young people felt that sometimes particular police officers could be rude to them, with several interface workers concerned that the lack of an overall coordinated approach by the police to deal with young people congregating at an interface could inflame an already tense situation. In particular the perceived lack of a standard police protocol on how to deal with young people at risk of coming in to contact with the criminal justice system was particularly frustrating for several interface workers who felt that different police divisions behaved differently when engaging with young people on the street.

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The frustration amongst some young people that they werent really taken seriously by adults was one reflected in their discussion of what needs to happen next in terms of further developing interface areas.

3.8 What next? The majority of young people shared many of the same concerns that their adult counterparts have in the contemporary period, worries over jobs, money and services in their area coupled with their concerns over the restricted levels of movement associated with living at an interface. Overwhelmingly, the young participants wanted an opportunity to feed in to the debate about how their local area should develop, particularly if as seems to be the case that various interface barriers are being looked at with a view to areas being physically opened up. In this regard a number of young people talked about the need for economic and physical regeneration of derelict land around the interface: They spent 300,000 grand on two big balls down the bottom of the Falls. I would have spent it on the flats beside it. You look at this big attraction and theres two big wrecked flats beside itLike that old barracks, nothing is getting done on the barracks land (Young Catholic male). Aye, they should have spent the money on the surrounding areas (Young Catholic female). Build something, a 3g pitch, something for both sides (Young Catholic male 1).

Researcher - What would you do on the empty barracks land?

However, while the vast majority of young people were keen to be involved in discussions around regeneration and transforming the interface, there was general consensus throughout the research that their views were rarely sought by adults, and that they were often viewed as a problem rather than as part of the solution to improving relations between communities: It was significant that several young people from different interface areas spoke of their attendance at the consultation event in the MAC Arts Centre on 25th September as being the first time they had ever been invited to a discussion on interface issues with other young people: Apart from tonight, we have never been invited to a cross-community discussion about interfaces. Also this is the first time we have been invited to a cross-city interface discussion, as not all interfaces have the same problems (Young Protestant male). Young people are only included when violence happens (Young Catholic female).

A mixed housing estate (Young Catholic male 2).

Yeah, something for both communities to use (Young Protestant male).

Some young people were concerned that without their input, another generation would be consigned to living with sectarianism and in segregated communities, and on a number of occasions the phrase listen to us was used with regards to developing strategies to work in interface areas moving forwards:

They (politicians) dont really seem to be arguing about sectarianism these days, they seem to be talking crap and spending moneyApparently there is more money being spent on separating Catholics and Protestants than bringing them together (Young Protestant female).

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Researcher If I was a politician, what would you say to me?

As such a number of young people felt that there was not enough being done by adults to provide them with opportunities to meet and interact with young people from a different community background. It also became clear that young people wanted the opportunity to be listened to in terms of regenerating the interface, and a number of young participants complained that adults did not take them seriously and would not value their opinions on what should happen in their areas: This tendency to feel excluded from the decision making process was compounded for those young people who believed that they had benefitted little from the Peace Process due to a perceived lack of investment in their areas: The government say theyll listen to young people but dont (Young Catholic male).

What are you doing to try and stop sectarianism? (Young Catholic male).

The majority of young people spoken with during the course of this research felt a sense of disempowerment and detachment from the decision making process. However, young people themselves were keen to become more involved in dialogue around interface issues and suggested a number of ways in which they could be more included in debates on the Peace Process, interfaces and good relations issues: We need more opportunities to talk to young people from the other side of the interface (Young Protestant male).

In East Belfast we have the Titanic Quarter, but there was no local investment from this such as jobs etc (Young Protestant male).

There should be meetings between young people and adults from different interfaces so that we can talk to them about it (Young Catholic female). Like a youth committee that has so many young people on it and meets up once a month to discuss interface issues (Young Catholic female).

For their part, a number of youth workers suggested that young people need to be included in a genuine consultation process moving forward, and with a genuine say, rather than only being involved in side projects which have a limited impact on decision making.

Recently published research on interfaces found that 64% of approximately 1,500 general respondents believed that interfaces should be a main priority for the Northern Ireland government, while 63% of interface residents would like to know more about initiatives and discussions about the walls and barriers (Byrne et al. 2012). Although these results are very interesting, and indicate that local residents want to be consulted with on interface issues, this is based upon the views of adults in interface areas. We know little about the views of young people outside of small scale research projects and consultations. To date there seems to have been a lack of opportunities for young people from different parts of Belfast, and from different communities, to discuss issues relating to the walls, security and regeneration. There are various ways and means (or models) of engagement which may be employed to increase the role young people play in discussions around interface issues in particular. A report produced by the UN on young people and their participation in decision making found that there were three main models of engagement for better including young people in decision making (UN 2003):
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The first model focuses on adult-led processes. This method allows young people to be invited to events and share their views and experiences. However, the report argued that this in and of itself does not lead to the empowerment of young people as it is predicated upon consultation rather than participation; The second model focuses on adult-initiated processes. While adults develop a project or process of dialogue, young people are invited to have some control over the inputs and outcomes of the discussion. As such they are not merely responding to an adult agenda and are allowed the space to shape the questions they would like answered; and The third and final model of engagement focuses on youth-led processes. This involves young people themselves identifying the issues of primary concern and taking resultant action. This may involve the establishment of youth forums to campaign on specific issues. One challenge with such developments is that they tend to limit the engagement to a small number of committed young people, and this can become dominated by the most articulate and exclude those on the margins.26

It is clear that in line with the Programme for Government, young people who live in interface areas should be part of the area based action plan discussions on developments at the interface, including any potential changes to security architecture. But effective consultation and engagement with young people needs to allow space for them to ask questions they feel are relevant (within reason) rather than simply being told of developments which are happening and why they are happening. While a youth led process in terms of discussion on interface issues is likely to be impractical, certainly an adult initiated process in which young people have the opportunity to explore issues or concerns they have regarding the interface would be an appropriate process of dialogue which the CRC and ICP could help facilitate. Such a consultation process may involve three core elements:

1. An initial process of information sharing with young people. The UN report suggests that young people at all times need adequate information about the issues at hand in order for them to make a meaningful contribution to consultation. The ICP are well placed to work with young people in their areas, through schools, church groups, sports clubs, educational organisations, local youth organisations and youth clubs, to inform young people about developments at the interface; 2. Space should be provided for young people within an interface community to discuss their views on interface issues in a safe environment. Initially this may take place amongst young people before potentially including young representatives in an inter-generational discussion with adults; 3. Young people from across the interface should be brought together to share their views on any potential developments. These discussions may only include young people, or rather include young people with adults in a cross-interface discussion. Relevant stakeholders should decide which is the most appropriate means of engagement. It may be useful for members of statutory organisations such as DoJ to be in attendance to discuss future plans.

26 All three models of engagement with young people follow the principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that young people under the age of 18 have the right to participate in decision-making.

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Summary Despite mixed views as to whether or not physical barriers provided any sense of security, the majority of young people felt that in the long-term Northern Irish society would be better off without the walls, although the length of time that it will take to get to that stage was disputed amongst young people. Generally most young participants spoke of living in a safer and better society than their parents did, and highlighted that the increasing signs of friendships and relationships developing between young people across the interface was evidence of this. However it should be borne in mind that the numbers of friendships and relationships discussed were limited, and at times young people drew upon stereotypes and sectarianized narratives to talk about the Other community, even when they considered themselves to have friends from that community.

This was particularly apparent with regards to accessing particular shops, leisure facilities and services which at times were perceived as off-limits. Young males appeared to be more inclined to impose restrictions on where they travelled to than young females, and at times parents, friends and family appeared to influence where the young people felt was safe and unsafe space, although there was evidence of young people also challenging what their parents and others told them in terms of areas to avoid. In line with this, those young people who had travelled into the territory of the Other found that it increased their levels of confidence to increasingly travel into areas which they previously would have avoided. It is clear that many young people felt excluded from the decision making process and would like an opportunity to contribute to any forthcoming debates about developments at the interface.

Although a small number of young people felt relatively unhindered in terms of their movement across the interface, many young people still felt that at some level their freedom of movement around the interface was restricted. They may have felt that their movement was better than it was even one or two years ago, but nonetheless it tended to be restricted in some way.

The following section provides a very brief discussion of some of these findings within the context of other research which has been conducted in the UK and further afield.

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4. Discussion and Key Findings


If as Margaret OBrien argues, one of the main principles of a just city is that it enables the free movement of children through it (OBrien et al. 2000: 258), then it is debatable whether or not Belfast as of May 2012 would qualify. While clearly some young people living at the interface feel relatively free to go where they please, there remain issues associated with a restricted sense of movement in and around the interface for many others, particularly with regards to accessing particular services and facilities. Despite the fact that many young people did not uncritically or passively accept narratives of safe and unsafe space as told to them by their friends, family and others (Leonard 2010c), it remained the case that for many there was a wariness associated with the Other community and in moving through the territory of the Other. This was particularly the case in the evenings and during the summer months when various trigger events can increase tensions between communities.

For teenagers who feel they are too old to get involved in standard youth club activities and for whom there seems little else to do, wandering the streets where they live becomes a regular occurrence and in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, this neighbourhood nationalism (Webster 2003) and attachment to an area where friends and family live is an important part of developing a sense of place bound identity (Matthews et al. 2000; Laughlin and Johnson 2011). However, the difficulty in Northern Ireland occurs where locality, territory and ethnicity intersect, particularly when groups of young people encounter one another at the interface (Healy 2006). The visible presence of groups of young people on the street is also often perceived by adults as young people being up to no good which in turn alienates young people further from local adults and wider society (Radford et al. 2005). The constant moving on of young people from public spaces, which while understandable in some ways as a response to resident fears of large numbers of young people in public, does little to alter perceptions that they are regarded as little more than a nuisance, and this can also feed into negative perceptions of the police who are responding to residents concerns.

Of course there are young people who gather at interfaces with the intention of, or indeed actually, getting involved in violence. This is clearly a key issue which needs to be tackled by the police and other organisations to, if possible, prevent a young person from coming in to contact with the criminal justice system. The 174 Trust have begun a Together Stronger project which will run until 2015 and which aims to improve community relations at the Carlisle Circus interface. One aspect of this project will be to engage with marginalised young people in the surrounding areas who may be at risk of engaging in interface violence and coming into contact with the criminal justice system this project and others like it should be welcomed as a step in the right direction in terms of improving engagement with young people at the interface.

Despite the potential of this and other similar one-off projects, all young people in public spaces should not be judged as being up to no good purely on account of their age and their appearance in public space. The position of many young people in interface areas and beyond is often on the periphery of citizenship, without a full sense of place in the community, where they are viewed as in the process of becoming adults, but they are not yet complete social beings (Blitzer 1991; Leonard 2006b: 1129). This may mean that in times of interface violence, getting involved to
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Rosie Meek (2008: 132) talks about inter-generational work being important in a rural English context to improve relationships between adults and young people and there are already a variety of projects on the ground which seek to adopt such an approach in Belfast. One such intergenerational project occurred in the Suffolk and Lenadoon areas recently and was facilitated by ASCERT.27 One part of this work, alongside engaging young people and residents, was the distribution of a leaflet to houses at the interface which aimed to highlight to young people the consequences that their behaviour on the street can have on local residents.

defend ones community becomes an attractive option which provides a sense of purpose, identity and status within the community which otherwise remains elusive.

Part of this process moving forwards may involve rethinking the strict dichotomy around defining public and private space. This may require a shift in thinking to one where space is defined on a sense of belonging rather than ownership (Laughlin and Johnson 2011). Otherwise a regeneration plan which emphasises divisions between public and private space and introduces social mix may leave little room for the interpretations of young people (Laughlin and Johnson 2011: 452-453). It is imperative in the Northern Irish context that this doesnt happen and the views of young people are included in the regeneration process. While there are therefore a number of key issues to be addressed in terms of intra-community relationships between young people and adults and young people also need to be included in the regeneration debate, it is of concern that there remains a general lack of opportunities for young people to have sustained face to face contact with others from different backgrounds given persistent segregated living and segregated education. In such a context there remain sectarianised narratives from which some young people draw upon to refer to the generalised Other which need to be challenged.

The Draw Down the Walls project between the North Belfast Interface Project, the Lower Shankill Community Association and the Golden Thread Gallery was a good example of creatively engaging with young people to begin to think about what their area might look like if there were no walls separating communities. This is one of the questions which needs to be asked of young people just as it does of adults what conditions would need to be in place before you would feel comfortable living in an area without barriers?

It is crucial in the forthcoming debates around regenerating interface areas and developing area based action plans to potentially think about removing barriers and transforming the interface that young people are included in this process. CRC and the ICP can assist in terms of providing information to young people in interface areas as a precursor to them being included in broader dialogue within and between interface communities.

This process should be reciprocal, with local adults also being encouraged to challenge some of their own views that young people are guilty until proven innocent by their mere presence in public space. Clearly feelings of trust, a sense of belonging and mutual support within communities are more likely to build in a place where face-to-face contact on a regular basis is possible (OBrien et al. 2000: 267). Such inter-generational work may provide further opportunities to challenge some of these stereotypes of the hoodie generation who tend to be feared and demonised while at the same time highlighting to young people why local residents may be concerned at the presence of large groups gathering on the streets, particularly at night (Meek 2008).

27 Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training. Based in Lisburn.

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Even those young people spoken to in this research project who participated in cross-community activities in school suggested that they were not long enough to provide a major change in the nature of relationships with the Other community. In some senses this is where specific projects such as the Ambassadors for Peace group in West Belfast as a longer-term effort to challenge stereotypes, create friendships and increase confidence traversing the interface come in. Perhaps the new Inner North Youth Platform, which held its inaugural conference on the on 22nd March in the Church of the Nazerene, may provide the opportunity for similar increased levels of cooperation amongst youth providers in the North of the city, although these one-off initiatives do little to alter the overall structures of division.

However, such projects should be welcomed for bringing a fresh approach to engaging with young people across the interface. As part of the project in West Belfast, young people from Ballymurphy and Springmartin have set a target date of 2019 as when they would like to see the first of the walls come down. While this may be seen in some quarters as wishful thinking, at least this small group of young people are starting to think about what the interface may look like in a few years time. As such, we as adults need to start listening to the young people themselves. Madeleine Leonard is absolutely right when she suggests that children are not merely empty vessels into which are poured adult thoughts and prejudices (Leonard 2006a). Children and young people must be viewed as individuals in their own right, as residents in interface communities, whose input moving forward can only make interface areas better places to live (BIP 1998). While this has been a limited research project which has only engaged with a relatively small number of young people, nevertheless their voices are valid and should be listened to moving forward. The key findings from this research project include:

Security 1. There were mixed views on the usefulness of the walls in terms of providing security, however those young people who lived closer to the interface tended to believe that the walls provided some sense of security. 2.

Community relations 3. Most young people however believed that relations between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were better now than they ever had been and that they were less sectarian than their parents and grandparents generation. 4. In line with this, there were signs of some cross-community friendships and even relationships developing among young people from different areas and different communities. However, it should be noted that the numbers of these relationships were relatively small and there remain some issues associated with peer and/or community pressure in terms of becoming friends or dating someone from the Other community.

Although broadly speaking most young people wanted the walls to come down at some stage, many felt that the time yet was not right and that more work had to be done to further improve community relations first.

5.

At times some young people differentiated between young people from the Other side whom they knew and thought were ok when compared to the general Other. At times stereotypes were drawn upon to refer to the generalised Other. At different times some young people referred to sectarianised narratives when talking about the Other community, although some young people actively challenged these views based upon their own more positive experiences.
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6.

7.

In general, most young people felt they had limited opportunities to meet, interact and become friends with young people from the Other community. Even young people who had participated in school cross-community activities tended to feel that these were not sustained enough to have much of a lasting impact.

8.

It must be noted that the definition of what it means to have a friend from a different community is important. At times some young people talked about their friends from the Other community, when in actual fact a more appropriate term would be that they knew someone from the Other community. This should perhaps be borne in mind when reviewing statistics on the numbers of young people who have friends across the community divide. Social media was highlighted as having both positive and negative consequences on community relations. While it was a way to make friends, at times various social media sources had been used to increase tensions or organise fights.

Perceptions of safe/unsafe space 9. While some young people reported feeling much safer in crossing the interface than they did even last year, the spatial patterns of many young people, and in particular young males, remain impacted upon by the location of an interface. Time of day, year and personal experience all impacted upon movement around the interface. The interface was felt to be more permanent at night, during the marching season and if a young person had prior experience of being verbally abused or beaten up due to their community background. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. A number of young people stated that they developed their knowledge of where to go and not to go from their parents, wider family and friends.

Those young people who had traversed the interface and went in to the territory of the Other felt more confident to keep doing so.

However, there was also evidence of a number of young people actively challenging where they had been told was safe and unsafe space.

For some young people walking around their area in school uniform was less of an issue than it used to be. However, a small number of young participants felt there were still issues with regards to their uniform publicly identifying their community background. Various programmes seek to encourage the development of relationships which will increase levels of confidence to cross the interface. While there was clearly evidence of this, it remains the case that some young people will cross the interface as part of a structured group rather than with their own friends on their own initiative.

15.

It remains the case that for some young people living at interfaces, certain shops and services are perceived to be off-limits if they are perceived to be located in the territory of the Other community.

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Interface Violence and Policing 16. While most participants felt that those young people who got involved in interface violence did so for fun to relieve boredom, this also tended to be more focused on the motivations of our community. As such the motivations of young people from the Other community were viewed as more sectarian in origin. 17. Youth and interface workers talked about the role of young people from hinterland communities in interface violence. This is significant given that we know little about how far the impact of an interface ripples out in to neighbouring communities.

18. 19. 20.

A number of both Catholic and Protestant young people believed that in a riot situation the police treated their community unfairly compared to the Other community.

Several youth and interface workers were also concerned that the police in their opinion did not have a standardised protocol from which to engage with young people on the streets.

Transforming the interface 21. The majority of young people want to be included in the discussion about what happens next to make their areas better places to live. The area based action plans envisaged in the Programme for Government (OFMdFM 2011) may provide a means in which young people can be included in the consultation process moving forward. 22. CRC and the ICP are well placed to identify young people in local communities and provide them with information about potential developments in interface areas. The three phased approach to consultation identified in the previous section may provide an appropriate means of properly consulting with young people and including them in the decision making process with regards to interface issues.

Perceptions of the police were also impacted upon by the moving on of young people from various public spaces. This also fed in to a general view among many young people that they are unfairly treated when compared to adults using public space.

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