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What does the ICRC do in Northern Ireland?

27-03-2013 FAQ

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.

Armed violence remains a problem still in Northern Ireland where the ICRC is working to lessen its impact.
A young child points up at a mural in East Belfast. Murals are still used to mark territory between divided communities, despite the signing of a peace agreement in 1998.

What activities does the ICRC carry out in Northern Ireland?

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 seeks to assist where it can in tracing persons who disappeared during the ‘Troubles.’ It addresses humanitarian issues associated with the separated prison regime that house those imprisoned in relation to politically-motivated violence. And it engages in a frank but discreet dialogue with a wide variety of contacts to highlight the humanitarian challenges it identifies.

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 one or another section of the community.

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 five 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 2012 and its expenditure in 2012 can be found online here.

How can I contact the ICRC office in Belfast?

You can get in touch with the ICRC Belfast office by e-mail.

Our work in Northern Ireland: videos

  • Northern Ireland: In and out of trouble

    Street violence, intimidation and sectarian tension still mar the lives of young people across Northern Ireland, despite ceasefires and a peace agreement that ended large-scale conflict.

  • Northern Ireland: Time to choose

    Paramilitary groups still exert a strong grip over some communities in Northern Ireland. They attack or exile young people as punishment for alleged crimes, particularly in Republican areas where local people prefer not to deal with the police.