Seminar: Visualising and quantifying the human cost of conflict-attributable mortality in Northern Ireland

Seminar: Visualising and quantifying the human cost of conflict-attributable mortality in Northern Ireland

Sociology Seminar: Tuesday 28 November
12:00 noon, venue TBC
 
Dr Jonathan Minton, University of Glasgow
The Shape of the Troubles: Visualising and quantifying the human cost of conflict-attributable mortality in Northern Ireland
 
 
Abstract
On 3 October 2017 the European Parliament passed a motion stating that sufficient progress had not yet been made by the UK government in the first stage of Brexit negotiations. The three key separation issues at this first stage are the financial settlement, the future rights of EU workers, and the Irish border. The motion stated that the UK had seriously impeded discussions by lacking clear proposals for any of these key issues. Of these three key issues, within the UK it often appears that the issue of the Irish border is the least discussed as well as most fundamentally intractable. 
 

Within the proposed talk, I will discuss recent research into Northern Irish mortality patterns using Lexis surfaces, ways of visually representing large arrays of age- and period-specific mortality like spatial maps. Within these Lexis surfaces, the rapid increase in young adult male mortality during and after 1972 is clearly visible as a visual ‘disruption’ to longer term and more gradual changes to age-specific mortality rates over the preceding decades. This ‘disruptive’ pattern to young adult mortality has its greatest intensity in the first year, followed by a gradual decay in intensity over subsequent years. By modelling this pattern as an impulse-decay function, alongside longer-term drifts towards improving mortality risks, estimates of the age-distribution of excess death risks, and declining intensity over time were produced using all-cause mortality data alone which were qualitatively very similar to those produced using much more meticulous methods of enumerating the deaths caused by the Troubles, and that produced total estimates of additional deaths within around 80% of more precise estimation methods. By using an impulse-decay function to model this additional risk component, the model also allows this and other forms of civil and sectarian conflict from around the world to be compared, with all-cause mortality data alone, in terms of both peak intensity and conflict ‘half-life’, and so may have broader applications in international comparative research. 
 
Sectarian discord had been intensifying in Northern Ireland from the late sixties, before tipping over into lethal and protracted conflict from 1971-72 onwards. Once this discord had become violent, both the demographic data and sociological narratives appear to show a conflict that, once initiated, became self-perpetuating, and was still costing lives two decades later. Given this, the talk will conclude by asking whether the underlying conditions within Northern Irish society which led to sectarian tension begetting self-sustaining violence in the early 1970s are still present, and so whether we should be concerned that a new, Brexit-based, period of political instability risks initiating a new wave of conflict-attributable deaths.