Caring through the Troubles

By Marie Smyth, Mike
Morrissey, Jennifer Hamilton
North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust

The Troubles in Northern Ireland have found resonance in images of burnt-out
houses and schoolchildren cowering behind their mothers on their way to school.
But what does living in an environment of violence, tribal conflict and acute
urban deprivation do to people and their physical and emotional health?

This study does not provide a definitive answer. It explores the impact of
sudden bereavement, paramilitary control and forced displacement in destroying
communities. It notes the overall poorer health of residents in North and West
Belfast, but is not able to distinguish the Troubles-related causes from those
related to deprivation. However, it shows most graphically the pressures on
staff working in these areas – the personal risks, caution in sharing information
and mistrust even of some colleagues – and yet a stoicism and determination to
maintain a service in the face of impossible odds. This has enabled services to
be delivered in health and social care across the religious and political fault

Using the words of those living and working in North and West Belfast, the
authors present a vivid and moving account of the realities of working life in
a conflict-torn area.

Terry Bamford is a member of the General Social Care Council and a former
director of social services at Kensington and Chelsea Council, London.

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