State policies of reparations for victims of the political conflict in Northern Ireland

  • Hedley Abernethy

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The conflict in and about Northern Ireland lasted three decades and resulted in the deaths of more than 3,600 people with countless others physically injured or psychologically traumatised. Initially redress for victims relied primarily on monetary compensation administered through state-funded schemes. The signing of the 1998 peace agreement brought an increased awareness that victims of the conflict had very real and often diverse needs and led to a ramped-up policy drive by the state to seek to both assess and meet those needs.

This thesis is an analysis of policy measures used to support conflict victims and provide services to them. Importantly, it asks if those policy measures can be considered reparation for those victims using Transitional Justice benchmarks. Archival and qualitative research was conducted to assess policy initiatives that support victims of the conflict against four of five transitional justice measures: compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction measures and measures that lead to guarantees of non-repetition as taken from the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.

Research found that programmes established in Northern Ireland can be deemed to have reparative value and have demonstrably met many of the expressed needs of victims. However, this thesis argues that a major philosophical gap remains between a state policy of redress and reparation per se as victims’ policies are often driven by a desire towards helping a vulnerable constituency within society rather than as an integral element in a process of transitional justice. This thesis concludes that as a result, contentious policy measures are being shelved and commitments to non-repetition limited because of a lack of engagement in the causes and consequences of past violence.
Date of AwardApr 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCath Collins (Supervisor) & Kristian Brown (Supervisor)


  • Victims
  • Post-conflict
  • Transitional justice
  • Conflict and law

Cite this