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Title: Girdwood Barracks : power, politics and planning in the post-ceasefire city
Author: DeYoung, Elizabeth Helen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 6590
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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In any society, contestation arises over the 'right' to space - how access to space is controlled and negotiated, who belongs and who is excluded. My research is primarily concerned with the policy and planning machinations of the post-ceasefire city, taking the former Girdwood Army Barracks in Belfast, Northern Ireland as its case study. It examines how power is exercised and how rhetoric is practiced and subverted through the processes of governance. The focal point of the analysis will be the nuanced relationships and dynamics within and between groups, and how these reflect upon the transformation of politics, society, and space in a city emerging from conflict. The regeneration of the former Girdwood Army Barracks is a microcosm of wider problems in Northern Ireland. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement promised a new future for a society previously mired in sectarianism and violence; the subsequent Northern Ireland Act enshrined its prescriptions into law. The vision for the 'new' Northern Ireland included a ceasefire leading to devolved consociational governance, which would then deliver social justice and the protection of vulnerable groups. Girdwood's regeneration was a test case for putting the rhetoric of the Agreement and the legislative framework of the Act into practice: promoting equality and democracy, sharedness and reconciliation, and a 'peace dividend' of prosperity in areas that saw the worst of the Troubles. The demilitarised Barracks site offered an opportunity for a regeneration project of international significance in one of the most deprived, divided, and conflict-afflicted parts of Northern Ireland. My research argues that such sentiments were rhetorical and camouflage the reality of a planning process that lacked shared visions; ignored equality and human rights legislation; and frustrated inter-community conflict amelioration. Girdwood is a site that has never before been studied in-depth, but which exemplifies the nature of ethnosectarian territorialism and zero-sum resource competition between groups estranged by conflict. However, it also highlights a developing social justice element which emerged as a dissenting voice to the sectarian status quo in Northern Ireland, attempting to hold politicians to the promises and prescriptions of the peace process. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates that consociationalism has not delivered the promises of the Agreement, nor the rule of law enshrined in the subsequent Act. It highlights the chasm between rhetoric and reality, vision and practice evident throughout both the eleven-year Girdwood development process and in the concurrent workings of the Assembly. The uneasy dynamic of power-sharing in the post-ceasefire Assembly which produced Girdwood has come to a seemingly intractable end; the Assembly collapsed in January 2017, and over a year later at the time of writing, a compromise still has not been reached. My study concludes that as a test case, Girdwood shows that the consociational system is ultimately not fit for purpose, and influenced the eventual failure of government.
Supervisor: Bean, Kevin ; Shirlow, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral