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Introduction to week 4

Introduction to week 4
Welcome back to Belfast. Last week we introduced the idea of a divided society, and the sort of conflict, sometimes violent, that can arise in them. In Belfast, we are very familiar with these issues. Between 1969, until a peace agreement in 1998, our society saw particularly high levels of conflict and violence. Whilst we have achieved some political resolutions to our problems, Northern Ireland remains deeply divided. And contests on the streets of this city are routine. This week, we want to look particularly at conflict over parades and demonstrations in the public spaces of Northern Ireland.
We will hear from people in this city who participate in parades, those who have opposed them, and those that have tried to make decisions on people’s right to parade. We will also begin to compare the conflict in Northern Ireland with other parts of the world.
We want to ask the question: what rights should we have to express our identity, and when should they be restricted?
This week we are going to look more closely at one particular example. We are going to explore some of the high levels of contest over the use of public space in Northern Ireland.
In week 1 we looked at why social identities are important. In week 2 we looked at some of the ways in which these identities present themselves in public spaces. We are particularly interested in events which involve groups of people such as parades, demonstrations, festivals and carnivals. In week 3 we identified certain societies, which we are choosing to describe as divided societies, as exhibiting particularly high levels of conflict over public space. Northern Ireland is one of those societies.
It is not easy to do justice to the complexity of any one situation or to put across the range of views that exist in one society. Northern Ireland is divided partly because there is no broad agreement on the contemporary history of the conflict (we will offer you only a light hearted introduction). We are using the term Northern Ireland to discuss the place we live in, yet even the use of this term would not be accepted by everyone.
This course cannot offer an analysis of the rights and wrongs of the violent conflict that took place. What we are interested in is the importance of events in public space for both the development of conflict and in the management of a peace process. We hope that through the interviews of this course you can gain insight into some of the views of people living in Northern Ireland.
It is a key argument of this course that in wanting to express their identities through parades, protests and the displays of symbols people in Northern Ireland are behaving like groups of people all over the world.
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Identity, Conflict and Public Space

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