GGY3009: Social Geography
Feeling's of Minority, Fear and Anger: How do the Peace Lines of NorthernIreland impact on peoples behaviour?
“Peace walls are a rather extreme illustration of the broader reality that residentialsegregation...has changed little since the agreement” (Geoghegan 2010)Geoghegan's statement sum's up what the the representation that the peace lines hold inNorthern Ireland's society, one of extreme division and segregation. With a human“instinct” like that of animals to stay in a familiar group to keep safe, and a lack of anyintegration policies by the government, complete segregation has occurred in some partsof Northern Ireland. Politically the country is divided in half, West of the River Bann votingSinn Fein and East voting predominately DUP. This kind of divide politically has beenpassed down through generations, and helps to carve up Northern Ireland into theseapparent territories. With extreme concentrations of segregation has brought visibledivision into the community. Peace lines today are a common appearance in the street-scape of Northern Ireland but particularly Belfast. However the wall's were originally said tobe a “temporary affair”(Geoghegan 2010) by the Army commanding officer during thetroubles. Segregation off course was happening before peace lines were built, but thesewall's are just a visible form of the previously invisible divide. Since the first wall waserected, they have become an important aspect of life in the country. In 1994, the year which most major paramilitary groups called a ceasefire there were 16 peace lines inBelfast, since then these walls have been extended and made higher. Since 1998 therehave been 9 more peace lines built (Coulter and Murray 2009). In their basic form the ideais to prevent the two communities, Protestant and Catholic from direct contact with eachother. Since the outset, they were created in response to spontaneous rioting and arealways found in areas which have a border between “rival” communities. It is known thatthey spatially separate communities, but they have a much deeper impact on thecommunities which live aside them, creating segregation residentially, in employment,education, consumption and leisure.In September 1969, the first peace line was built in Northern Ireland. Situated in WestBelfast, it replaced a barricade which had been put in place by the residents themselves.This wall was built to make a divide between the Protestant/Unionist Shankill road and theCatholic/Nationalist Falls road after much violence during the early troubles and followed Army presence in the area. Peace lines do not only divide two communities, in somecases such as the Short Strand in East Belfast and the Fountain Estate inDerry/Londonderry it creates enclaves. These are communities which are nearly 100% cutof from the outside with peace lines. Although the majority of peace lines are in Urbanareas, it is still an issue in rural Northern Ireland (Harvey 2010). Most of the peace linesthroughout Northern Ireland are found in less affluent places, with a high percentage inNorth and West Belfast. Out of the 25 peace lines which are visible today, 17 are in the top10% deprived wards in Belfast (Coulter and Murray 2009). Calame and Charlesworth(2009) discuss how these wall's are built with “No overarching logic” to guide their placement with respect to the city. Stretching at their longest 1.6km and some reaching12m in height, and being built with concrete, steel, brick and barbed wire it is hard for themnot to be labelled “ intimidating” and “antagonising”. Richard (2000) explains the phases of