Hard to miss, easy to blame? : peacelines, interfaces and political deaths in Belfast during the Troubles

Cunningham, Niall and Gregory, Ian (2014) Hard to miss, easy to blame? : peacelines, interfaces and political deaths in Belfast during the Troubles. Political Geography, 40. pp. 64-78. ISSN 0962-6298

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As Northern Ireland moves further from the period of conflict known as the ‘Troubles’, attention has increasingly focussed on the social and material vestiges of that conflict; Northern Ireland is still a deeply-divided society in terms of residential segregation between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists, and urban areas are still, indeed increasingly, characterised by large defensive walls, known as ‘peacelines’, which demark many of the dividing lines between the two communities. In recent years a body of literature has emerged which has highlighted the spatial association between patterns of conflict fatality and proximity to peacelines. This paper assesses that relationship, arguing that previous analyses have failed to fully take account of the ethnic complexity of inner-city Belfast in their calculations. When this is considered, patterns of fatality were more intense within the cores or ‘sanctuaries’ of highly segregated Catholic and Protestant communities rather than at the fracture zones or ‘interfaces’ between them where peacelines have always been constructed. Using census data at a high spatial resolution, this paper also provides the first attempt to provide a definition of the ‘interface’ in clear geographic terms, a spatial concept that has hitherto appeared amorphous in academic studies and media coverage of Belfast during and since the Troubles. In doing so it embodies both the material and demographic aspects of social division in Northern Ireland, and suggests an urgent need to reappraise the true role of these forms of social boundary in influencing patterns of violent conflict.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Political Geography
Additional Information:
(c) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY license.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? belfasttroubleswallsgissegregationviolencehistorysociology and political sciencegeography, planning and development ??
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Deposited On:
09 Apr 2015 08:46
Last Modified:
18 Dec 2023 01:28