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Dismantling Belfast peace walls: New material arrangements for improving community relations

Abstract : The chapter focuses on walls as socio-spatial devices shaping urban space. In Belfast, a high level of residential segregation divides urban space into Catholic and Protestant areas. Walls built for security reasons since the beginning of the civil strife (the so-called “Troubles”) in the late sixties still shape the urban environment and people’s minds. Despite the peace process and the setting of a new power-sharing government, tensions and fear remain on the ground. New walls have been erected since the political agreement was signed in 1998 and the old ones have been maintained. International media and local political attention focus on the walls as the symptoms of the lasting conflict in Northern Ireland. No longer a taboo, since 2008 the question of dismantling the “barriers” has become subject to public debate. Belfast City Council in 2011 made a public statement about the issue and in 2013 the Northern Ireland Executive committed itself to having all barriers removed by 2023. A 10-year programme supports communities to reach agreement at the local level. Experimentation has started, leading to alternative physical settings like gardens or replacement with lower walls or railings. Is this progress towards a shared society or only “lipstick on the gorilla”? Although they appear as less threatening, these new arrangements tend to inscribe long-term divisions in the urban fabric.
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Submitted on : Monday, September 13, 2021 - 4:07:01 PM
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Florine Ballif. Dismantling Belfast peace walls: New material arrangements for improving community relations. Andrea Mubi Brighenti, Mattias Kärrholm. Urban Walls: Political and Cultural Meanings of Vertical Structures and Surfaces, Routledge, pp.35-58, 2018, 9780203730225. ⟨hal-03342851⟩

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