Peace lines, the euphemistic term given to the high imposing walls that separate some Catholic/republican and Protestant/loyalist communities, are part of the landscape and discourse in the less affluent parts of Belfast city. Erected to prevent republican and loyalist ‘tit for tat’ acts of violence, they are literally a concrete example of the consociational premise that ‘high fences good neighbours make’. The author will also argue that they are the embodiment of the consociational practice of segmental autonomy. This essay will briefly describe the history of the peace walls in Northern Ireland and map their location focusing in particular at the socio-economic characteristics of the communities they divide. It will critically analyse the rationale for their establishment and their continuance in times of peace making reference to the consociational institutional structures and practices that appear to have become the norm in Northern Ireland. It will draw on the various consociational works of Arendt Lijphart, Hans Daalder and Brendan O’Leary and their critics Donald Horowitz and Paul Dixon. Finally, particular attention will be paid to the need for these walls as Northern Ireland makes the transition of a post conflict society and how their presence can co-exist with; the need to develop a sense of common purpose in the region, and official policies on cross community relations and reconciliation.
Sharon Loree Allen, Anthony Ohalloran, Chengiah Ragaven, Mayra Besosa