The right to Belfast City Centre: from ethnocracy to liberal multiculturalism?

John Nagle

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22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper outlines a longitudinal study of struggles to control the public space of Belfast City Centre, the capital of Northern Ireland and a city divided by the competing political aspirations of British unionists and Irish nationalists. While the City Centre was once proscribed to nationalist groups, since 1993 nationalist groups have claimed equal use of this ‘sacred space’, once the spatial preserve of unionism. I examine this opening access of the City Centre in terms a shift from an ‘ethnocratic’ form of citizenship to one inflected by liberal multiculturalism, from one of ethnic exclusion to one informed by forms of power-sharing between nationalists and unionists. While many commentators have critiqued this form of conflict management for institutionalizing sectarianism and facilitating zero-sum conceptions of space, I argue that current strategies of creating a ‘shared space’ can be critically viewed as a successful form of liberal multiculturalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • consociationalism
  • multiculturalism
  • ethnocracy
  • Belfast
  • peace-building


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