Children as young as six are suffering from trauma related to the Troubles, an Irish government committee has been told.
The Wave Trauma Centre, which supports people affected by the conflict, said the charity had received a number of referrals of young children who had not been born at the time of the Troubles, but had been traumatised by it second hand.
The charity's CEO Sandra Peake was addressing the Dail parliament's Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee in an evidence session on the impact of legacy issues from the conflict.
She said: "In the last year we've had 650 people referred to us, some as young as six years old."
Ms Peake said this could sometimes occur as adults traumatised by the conflict became overprotective of their children, to the extent that it had a negative effect on the children's mental health.
She said: "Recently, I was in a house which was fortified with metal gates and there were young children living behind them, because the parents were frightened.
"If you think that mortality (from old age of people traumatised by the Troubles) will sort it out - you're wrong. It just gets passed to the next generation."
Ms Peake called on politicians in London, Dublin and Belfast to refocus their efforts on victims and survivors of the conflict to ensure legacy cases were heard and that injured people received adequate financial support for their needs.
Victims' advocacy groups have previously criticised Northern Ireland's politicians over what they consider to be a failure to agree on a way to deal with victims and survivors of the conflict.
Research conducted by Ulster University in 2015 found that 30% of the population in Northern Ireland suffer from a mental health problem, with half of these thought to be specifically related to trauma from the Troubles.
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved.