Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Visit from Women Mediators across the Commonwealth

On 10 and 11 December 2019 it was fantastic to host Sumona Das Gupta and Nikhat Sattar from India and Pakistan respectively at the Magee Campus. The guests are both part of Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC), which is an innovative new network of women mediators coming together to exchange and learn from each other, and to advocate for the increased representation of women in peace processes globally. The purpose of the visit was aimed at sharing global lessons on mediation. The visitors also met some local groups, and specifically shared experiences with Syrian women at the Derry Women's Centre. The Chair is also involved in ongoing discussions about future collaborations.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

BBC Archive on the Troubles

On 8 November 2019, I worked with the BBC Rewind team to launch on the Magee Campus the Ten Chapters Of The Northern Ireland Troubles. The Ten Chapters, produced by the BBC Rewind editorial and technology team, is an online, multi-media series of episodes covering the conflict in Northern Ireland from the 1950s to the 1990s. As part of the launch a workshop was run with 14-22 year olds from the City. The BBC project came about as a result of discussions with the INCORE/CAIN project teams at Ulster University and Queen's University Belfast, and as part of the tripartite agreement between the BBC and the academic institutions.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Screening Violence: Argentinian Films

The lastest screenings of the Screening Violence Project took place in Dungannon on 7 November 2019, with the support of the Dungannon Film Club, showing two Argentinian films followed by a discussion with participants.

The films shown were "Padre/Father" (Director Santiago Bou Grasso), a short stop motion animation piece that portrays the day-to-day life of a woman who looks after her bedridden military father. The second film was "Who am I?/Quién soy yo?"(Director Estela Bravo), a documentary about the stolen babies of the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina who have recovered their true identity. Needless to say, the films provoked an interesting discussion.

The Argentinian animation can see below, and if you further questions on the project or want to participate contact me.

PADRE from opusBou on Vimeo.

The Chair has continued work on AHRC Project "Screening Violence: A Transnational Study of Post-Conflict Imaginaries" with partners in Newcastle and Bristol University, and works with co-investigators and partners in Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Northern Ireland and Indonesia.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Book Launch: Verwoerd

On 17 October 2019 I facilitated a discussion with Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd at the Belfast launch of "Verwoerd: My Journey through Family Betrayals". The discussion focused on key aspects of the book, and particularly Dr Verwoerd's challenges of coming to terms with the fact that HF Verwoerd, his grandfather, was the South African Prime Minister who is widely considered the architect of the apartheid system. Topics for discussion included key questions of the responsibilities of those who benefitted from the apartheid system, the question of "betrayal" when you take a different path to peacebuilding from those around you,  as well as the relevance of the book to wider contexts.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Exodus at New Gate Fringe Festival

The "Screening Violence" project partnered with the New Gate Fringe Festival in Derry/Londonderry, which included a screening of the film "Exodus" and focus group discussion after on 31 July 2018. A panel discussing the movement of Protestants from the City side of Derry was then undertaken and filmed in the evening including panelists Gregory Campbell, Eamon McCann, Pauline Gardiner, Niall Gilmartin, and Adrian Grant.

Panelists Gregory Campbell, Eamon McCann, Pauline Gardiner
Niall Gilmartin, and Adrian Grant

This event was part of the AHRC Project "Screening Violence: A Transnational Study of Post-Conflict Imaginaries" with partners in Newcastle and Bristol University, and works with co-investigators and partners in Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Northern Ireland and Indonesia.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Impact of Violence on Refugees

Hamber, Brandon (2019). Changing Context, Changing Lenses: A Contextual Approach to Understanding the Impact of Violence on Refugees. In Thomas Wenzel, Boris Drozdek and Jörg Pont, The Health of Refugees – an Interdisciplinary Perspective. Springer: New York [More Information]

Friday, June 14, 2019

"Falsos Positivos" Second Screening

I have been continuing work on AHRC Project "Screening Violence: A Transnational Study of Post-Conflict Imaginaries" with partners in Newcastle and Bristol Universities, and works with co-investigators and partners in Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Northern Ireland and Indonesia. Further data collection was undertaken in the summer, including the screening of the Colombian film "Falsos Positivos" in partnership with the Dungannon Film Club and a focus group following the film to engage the "social imagination of violence" on 14 June 2018. Film trailer below.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The legacy of Northern Ireland’s past: Mental Health

Ulster University professors Siobhan O’Neill, left, and Brandon Hamber argue that understanding the effect of the Troubles related trauma, including transgenerational trauma, is vital for fostering peace building in Northern Ireland.

The conflict was a significant and distinctive stressor in the life of the community in Northern Ireland for over 40 years. The world mental health survey found that whilst around 71.5 percent of the population have minimal levels of mental illness, the mental health difficulties of at least half of the remaining 28.5 percent (approx. 213,000 adults) appear to be directly related to the Troubles (Bolton, 2017; McLafferty et al., 2016; O’Neill et al., 2015). The same study showed that 39 percent of the population experienced a traumatic event that was related to the Troubles. Such events included bombings, shootings, and witnessing killings and mutilations. The research demonstrated the depth and scale of the mental health needs of the Northern Ireland population, however progress on meeting those needs and providing the evidence-based treatments for complex trauma-related illnesses has been slow.

In the meantime, the consequences are manifest in the form of social unrest and high rates of suicide (O’Neill et al., 2014) and prescribed medication (Benson et al., 2018). Mental illness stifles healing and empathy. Psychological therapies can help individuals make meaning from their experiences, which not only reduces their suffering, but also allows them to place the experience in context, to foster recovery. Such processes at both a personal, and community level can promote peace-building, and potentially create the environment for peace.

For victims and survivors of trauma, the issues of truth, justice, accepting responsibility, compensation and official acknowledgement are also part of this “meaning making” and are interwoven with healing (Hamber, 2009). In fact, healing, often promoted by addressing wider victim issues such as truth and justice, in such circumstances may provide the conditions for post-traumatic growth (Joseph, 2015).The opposite is also true, that failing to address the wider needs of survivors (such as a desire for justice or truth) can have negative psychological consequences into the long term (Hamber, 2009).

We made these points in response to the consultation on the proposed legacy institutions (O’Neill and Hamber, 2018, see our full response), and also noted that the institutions will have a profound impact on the mental health of the individuals who engage with them, those who for whatever reason choose not to, and those with existing trauma-related conditions who either participate, or hear about them from the media and other sources. It is vital that the mental health of those affected is protected through this process.

The consultation – ‘Addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past’ – includes proposals to implement the four new legacy institutions set out in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement (SHA) and the Government’s manifesto for Northern Ireland 2017. A key element of the Stormont House Agreement is that all of these bodies will be under statutory obligations to act in ways that are balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable.

Our six key recommendations in relation to the legacy institutions:
  1. The institutions should adopt a victim and survivor-centred perspective. The process should be scrutinised from the perspective of the victim, and their journey through engagement with one or more of the structures.
  2. Support for victims through the process should be standardised and offered on an equal basis to all survivors across the legacy institutions.
  3. A process of demand profiling and impact assessment should be undertaken prior to the commencement of the work of the institutions.
  4. The institutions should adopt a trauma-informed approach that: Realises the impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; Recognises the signs and symptoms of trauma, responds by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and seeks to actively resist re-traumatisation. (SAMSHA, 2018). This particularly means that the legacy structures and processes should screen people for trauma-related conditions and facilitate them in receiving treatment.
  5. We recommend that a Mental Health Advisory Group with an expert chair, is convened to oversee and monitor the implementation of all four institutions.
  6. We need to protect the mental wellbeing of those who work within the institutions particularly those who witness the testimonies of the victims and survivors and those tasked with delivering justice and establishing a level of need.
Citing this Article

O’Neill, Siobhan and Hamber, Brandon (2019). Addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past. The View Digital, Issue 51, pp.30-31.


This article was published by The View Digital (Issue 51, 2019), to download a Pdf of the article as it appeared, click here. To download the full edition of The View Digital which features "An in-depth look at victims, survivors and legacy issues from the Troubles", click here.

Learn more about The View Digital, click here.


Benson, T., Corry, C., O’Neill, S., Murphy, S., Bunting, B. (2018). Use of prescription medication by individuals who died by suicide in Northern Ireland. Arch Suicide Res, 22, 1, 139-152. Download. 

Bolton, D. (2017). Conflict, peace and mental health: Addressing the consequences of conflict and trauma in Northern Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hamber, B. (2009). Transforming Societies After Political Violence: Truth, Reconciliation and Mental Health. New York: Springer.

Joseph, S. (2015). A person-centred perspective on working with people who have experienced psychological trauma and helping them move forward toward post-traumatic growth. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, 14(3), 178-190.

McLafferty, M., Armour, C., O'Neill, S., Murphy, S., Ferry, F., Bunting B. (2016). Suicidality and profiles of childhood adversities, conflict related trauma and psychopathology in the Northern Ireland population. J Affect Disord, 200, 97-102. Download.

O'Neill, S., Ferry, F., Murphy, S.D., et al. (2014). Patterns of suicidal ideation and behaviour in Northern Ireland and associations with conflict-related trauma. PLOSOne, download.

O’Neill, S., Armour, C., Bolton, B. et al., (2015). Towards a Better Future: The Transgenerational Impact of the Troubles on Mental Health. Belfast, CVSNI. Retrieved from here.

O’Neill, S. and Hamber, B. (2018). Consultation Response: Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past. The need for a victim and survivor centred, trauma-informed approach. Retrieved from here, 25th Feb 2019.

SAMHSA (2018). Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma-Specific Interventions. Download.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Screening Violence: "Falsos Positivos" in Northern Ireland

The field work from the AHRC Project "Screening Violence: A Transnational Study of Post-Conflict Imaginaries" with partners in Newcastle and Bristol Universities, and works with co-investigators and partners in Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Northern Ireland and Indonesia began this month. Data collection was undertaken in partnership with the Nerve Centre which included the screening of the Colombian film "Falsos Positivos" (see details). A focus group discussion took place following the film to engage the "social imagination of violence".

Monday, March 18, 2019

Mental Health Legacy of Northern Ireland's past

O'Neill, Siobhan and Hamber, Brandon (2019). Addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland's past. The View Digital, Issue 51, pp.30-31. [Read Online]

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Survivor centred, trauma-informed approach

The government launched a consultation on "Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past" earlier in 2018 with a closing date of October 2018.

As part of the responses to the consultation Professor Siobhan O'Neill and myself made a submission on "The need for a victim and survivor centred, trauma-informed approach". To read the submission, download here.

Image from CVSNI public information graphics

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Historical Urbanism Project

Historical Urbanism is an AHRC-funded interdisciplinary research project that aims to understand how urban design influenced by historical and heritage data can be used to address issues such as ethnic/religious/class segregation in cities, as well as contributing to environmental sustainability and better public health. The project team is made up of academic researchers from Ulster University with interests in history, policy, architecture and design, planning, psychology, and peace and conflict studies. They are joined by project partners in local government departments of planning, regeneration and the environment; partners in the museums and heritage sector, and creative social entrepreneurs who provide digital fabrication skills to people living in an area of high unemployment and low educational attainment.

1970s public housing development in the
Fountain estate in Derry-Londonderry
Photo: Dr Adrian Grant
The project begins from the premise that good urban design should be cognisant of the needs of the people who live in, and use, the space in question. Therefore, urban design and regeneration projects should build from and be respectful of emotional connections to space and place formation. We intend to explore these connections through a historical prism by focusing on emotional memory and the connections people feel to the spaces in which they have lived, worked and socialised throughout their lives. The resultant research data will then be used to facilitate collaborative work between the researchers, case study area residents, local stakeholders, and planners, designers and architects.

The research team are Adrian Grant (Principal Investigator), David Coyles (Co-Investigator) and Brandon Hamber (Co-Investigator). Working closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council and the The Nerve Centre. The project runs from January 2019 — January 2021.

See all posts related to the Historical Urbanism Project.