• Northern Ireland;
  • Victims;
  • Political violence;
  • Trauma;
  • Peace building

The conflict in Northern Ireland left over 3,600 people dead and tens of thousands injured, but establishing who are victims and the very nature of victimhood has been difficult. In part this is due to the highly contested nature of the labels “victim” and “terrorist.” The present paper employed interpretative phenomenological analysis to gain a greater understanding of the conceptualisation of victimhood in Northern Ireland. Catholic and Protestant civilians, paramilitaries, politicians, security force personnel, and community activists who had experienced direct and/or indirect political violence were interviewed. Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed five themes related to internal, interpersonal, and macro aspects of victimhood. The participants illustrated how the label of victim was associated with both weakness and strength, depending on the audience. Interview responses also revealed that although participants were resilient, they suffered at least some temporary psychological trauma due to their exposure to political violence. In addition the analysis indicated that there was a psychological cost associated with perpetrating acts of political violence. These findings are discussed in relation to the need for a national or cross-national program of intergroup dialogue and truth recovery to provide closure to victims and reintegrate victims and perpetrators into the postconflict society.