Violence and Commemoration in the New Northern Ireland: Space, Memory and Management

Joanne Murphy, Maire Braniff

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


On June 27th 2012, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and former IRA commander, Martin McGuinness shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II for the first time at an event in Belfast. For many the gesture symbolised the consolidation of Northern Ireland's transition to peace, the meeting of cultures and traditions, and hope for the future. Only a few weeks later however violence spilled onto the streets of north and west Belfast following a series of commemorative parades, marking a summer of hostilities. Those hostilities spread into a winter of protest, riot and discontent around flags and emblems and a year of tensions and commemorative-related violence marked again by a summer of rioting and protest in 2013. Outwardly these examples present two very different pictures of the 'new' Northern Ireland; the former of a society moving forward and putting the past behind it and the latter apparently divided over and wedded to different constructions of the past. Furthermore they revealed two very different 'places', the public handshake in the arena of public space; the rioting and fighting occurring in spaces distanced from the public sphere. This paper has also illustrated the difficulties around the ‘public management’ of conflict and transition as many within public agencies struggle with duties to uphold good relations and promote good governance within an environment of political strife, hostility and continuing violence.

This paper presents the key findings and implications of an exploratory project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, explored the phenomenon of commemorative-related violence in Northern Ireland. We focus on 1) why the performance or celebration of the past can sometimes lead to violence in specific places; 2) map and analyse the levels of commemorative related violence in the past 15 years and 3) look at the public management implications of both conflict and transition at a strategic level within the public sector.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2014
EventPolitical Studies Association 64th Annual International Conference - Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Apr 201416 Apr 2014


ConferencePolitical Studies Association 64th Annual International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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