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About the Project

In 1920 the Government of Ireland Act led to the partition of Ireland and the formation of the six-county state in 1921. The first 100 years of the state’s  history have been punctuated by waves of violence.  The 1998 Good Friday Agreement sought to bring the Troubles to an end and reimagine a more peaceful future. Northern Irish society, however, continues to be highly segregated and this is particularly the case along educational and residential lines. From the outset, this means that young people living in the North of Ireland are put into boxes which perhaps do not adequately represent their views and opinions – the Bordered Youth Project seeks to change that.

Now, barely 100 years since its formation, Northern Ireland is suffering another existential threat. The Brexit vote of 2016 did not address how a new land border with the EU would work in practice. The Northern Ireland Protocol, which came into effect on 1 January 2021, put a de facto border in the Irish Sea, alienating some Unionist communities who supported the Brexit vote. Two years on, there is still no resolution regarding how the Protocol could, or should, function, and once again, Northern Ireland is without a operational government as a result.

The Bordered Youth Project wants to find out how young people feel about this. For too long young people’s voices have been marginalised, and treated as an in-between state, not children, but not yet adults either. However, these young people are the inheritors of Brexit, even though they were too young to vote in the referendum at the time. Working with them, we will use a range of participatory methods to find out how they feel about who they are and where they belong, and to reflect on what the future might look like across the Island of Ireland. Our project team will work to make sure their voices are heard by working with a range of partners and organisations including the Nerve Centre, the YMCA in Ireland, the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, and the Department for Education in Northern Ireland.

The Project Team

  • Dr Suzanne Beech

    Dr Suzanne Beech is the Principal Investigator Bordered Youth team. She has been a Lecturer in Human Geography at Ulster University since 2016 and brings expertise in young people, migration and mobilities. Her work on international higher education has been published in prominent geography journals such as Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

    Suzanne lives in Bangor in Northern Ireland and loves nothing more than being out exploring the coast with her family and dog – she’s also loves to go for a dip in the sea and has been known to swim in Belfast Lough even when it’s the middle of winter!

  • Dr Sara McDowell

    Dr Sara McDowell is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Ulster University. She has conducted a wide range of projects on the geographies of conflict and peacebuilding in divided or transitional societies including Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, the Basque Country, Israel/Palestine, Sri Lanka, and South Africa.

    She is an editor of Routes: The Journal for Student Geographers which is the first journal dedicating to showcasing the perspectives of sixth form geographers and undergraduate students. Born and raised in Derry, Sara has grown up alongside the Irish Border.

  • Dr Mark Holton

    Dr Mark Holton is Associate Professor in Human Geography at the University of Plymouth. He has been involved in multiple research projects that examine how young people’s everyday sense of belonging shapes, and is shaped by, mobility and place.

  •  Amy Reid

    Amy Reid is a Research Associate on the Bordered Youth Project at Ulster University. She is nearing completion of her PhD in Human Geography, and her interdisciplinary project explores emotional geographies and peacebuilding in Cyprus' post-conflict landscape. Amy also has extensive experience working in both Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and has explored issues around heritage, reconciliation, and emotional geographies in these divided societies.

Past Team Members

  • Dr Jihyun Lee

    Dr Jihyun Lee is a Research Associate at Ulster University. Prior to this, she was a Post-doctoral Research Assistant to the European Research Council funded project ‘Eurostudents’ at the University of Surrey and a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University College London. Her research focuses on the relations between international student mobility and their specific articulations through place of study. Jihyun is a big fan of Harry Potter and loves coffee. She enjoys staying at home as much as travelling.

  •  Dr Rhonda Burns 

    Dr Rhonda Burns is a Research Associate at Ulster University. Rhonda completed her Doctorate at Ulster University in 2019 and her research interests include the mental health impact of multiple experiences of victimisation and trauma across the life course in men, young people and forensic populations among other things. Rhonda has published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders (JAD), Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology (SPPE) and has published with RTE Brainstorm. She is also a reviewer for SPPE.

    While studying, Rhonda was elected to Ulster University Students Union and went on to become a UUSU Trustee. She has previously held posts at Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Central Lancaster and worked on a variety of projects including digital mental health, the Transgenerational Transition of Trauma, Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, and the use of AI in research.

    Rhonda enjoys fibre arts, growing plants and looking after her many pets. She enjoys astronomy and particularly enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.