From its office in Belfast, the ICRC tackles humanitarian problems in Northern Ireland arising from violence and the legacy of conflict. Here we explain what we're doing and why.
What activities does the ICRC carry out in Northern Ireland?
The ICRC provides assistance solely on the grounds of humanitarian need and it interacts with individuals and groups across society - its activities are not limited to any particular section of the community.
The ICRC has a number of projects and initiatives that deal with the impact of violence or the legacy of conflict. It works with community-based organizations in Belfast, Londonderry/Derry and other areas that seek to ease sectarian tension and to limit violence within or between communities. The goal is to deal with the impact of conflict on people's day-to-day lives. For example, ICRC-assisted projects help young people avoid involvement with armed groups and to stay within the law.
The ICRC also addresses humanitarian issues associated with the separated prison regime that houses those imprisoned in relation to politically-motivated violence. The ICRC conducts visits with individuals held in HMP Maghaberry and HMP Hydebank Wood prisons. In 2014 detainees at Maghaberry, and at Hydebank Wood, had their treatment and living conditions monitored during visits carried out by the ICRC. Ongoing dialogue was maintained with the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Prison Service and confidential reports (including where necessary any recommendations) were shared with the authorities.
The ICRC also seeks to assist where it can in tracing persons who disappeared during the 'Troubles' and it engages in a frank but discreet dialogue with a wide variety of contacts to highlight the humanitarian challenges it identifies.
What is your role in the Forum for separated prisoners in Northern Ireland?
In 2015 the ICRC was asked by the Minister of Justice to be an independent Chair of a Forum inside HMP Maghaberry. This request was made following a number of recommendations in the 2014 Stocktake Report that followed the August 2010 agreement between prisoners and prison management.
The ICRC believes such a role fits within the organization's humanitarian mandate and is compatible with its fundamental principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality. After having consulting widely on this matter, the ICRC accepted the position of Chair for a six-month period on the basis that all parties to the Forum agree to the ICRC taking up the role.
What is the history of the ICRC in Northern Ireland?
The ICRC has travelled to Northern Ireland since the 1950s and undertook prison visits until 1999, after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed. The ICRC conducted an assessment of needs in Northern Ireland in 2010 and decided the humanitarian situation warranted a full-time presence in the region. The ICRC Belfast office opened in April 2011 and now has several staff working on a range of issues.
What is the ICRC hoping to achieve in Northern Ireland?
The ICRC believes its impartial and independent approach can help address humanitarian problems in Northern Ireland. A major focus is on tackling the consequences of conflict and mitigating the threat of violence by working with grassroots groups in local communities. The ICRC promotes human dignity amid strife while, in line with its non-political and neutral character, taking no stand on the causes of violence in Northern Ireland. The ICRC is careful not to duplicate the work done by other organizations – it hopes its status as an international 'outsider' can offer a valuable alternative perspective.
How is the ICRC's work in Northern Ireland funded?
To fund its work globally, the ICRC relies on the generous support of its donors, principally governments, national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and supra-national organizations such as the European Commission. The ICRC's overall budget for its operations in Britain and Northern Ireland in 2013 and its expenditure in 2013 can be found in the section of the Annual Report dealing with the UK and Ireland mission.