Democratic responsibility in a divided society: exploring public trust in post-conflict Northern Ireland
Trust in democratic institutions is vital within post-conflict societies like Northern Ireland in reducing division and sustaining peace. Through in-depth interviews with three fundamental groups in the democratic process, the media, government and community representatives, this project aims to produce new insight into trust in Northern Ireland. While the discourse of post-conflict civic life often includes reference to issues of ‘trust’ and communicating trust, little is understood about what this means to the key groups involved in the creation or otherwise, of public trust.
Alongside contributing original academic knowledge, this project seeks to improve understanding of public trust among stakeholders e.g. government, media, and citizens in Northern Ireland. The project will engage with these groups through consultation and seminars to provide practical recommendations and mechanisms for trust building in the long term. This project explores trust at a pivotal time in Northern Ireland’s post-conflict history. A new government has recently been established following elections, which although still a mandatory coalition with consociational protections, includes an official opposition; this may lead to a different kind of government and media discourse and different government-media relations (Rice and Somerville, forthcoming). Given wider political change in the form of ‘Brexit’, Northern Ireland’s peace is arguably particularly fragile. Understanding trust in this new context is therefore a pressing issue for stakeholders in Northern Ireland. More widely, the project’s learnings may be useful for other contexts and the findings from this project will be used to inform a larger comparative research project into trust in divided or post-conflict societies with international partners.