Civic identity and public space

Belfast since 1780

Civic identity and public space, focussing on Belfast, and bringing together the work of a historian and two social scientists, offers a new perspective on the sometimes lethal conflicts over parades, flags and other issues that continue to disrupt political life in Northern Ireland. The first part of the book shows how these disputes had their origins in the changes that took place during the nineteenth century in the character of urban living, creating new forms of public space whose regulation was from the start a matter of contention and debate. Later chapters show how the establishment of a new Northern Ireland state, with Belfast as its capital, saw unionism and Protestantism achieve a near-complete monopoly of public space. In more recent decades, this monopoly has broken down, partly as a result of political violence, but also through the influence of new ideas of human rights and of a more positive vision of political and cultural diversity. Today policy makers and politicians struggle to devise a strategy for the management of public space in a divided city, while endeavouring to promote a new sense of civic identity that will transcend long-standing political and sectarian divisions.

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