Measuring and Mapping Conflict-Related Deaths and Segregation: Lessons from the Belfast ‘Troubles’

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Book Chapter

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conflicted-related deaths, religion, sectarianism, segregation

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Commonly known as the ‘Troubles,’ the disputes between Irish republicans (mostly Catholics) and British unionists (mostly Protestants) in Northern Ireland have lasted for decades and since the late 1960s have claimed around 3,600 lives. Military intervention by the British Army eventually undermined the activities of the main paramilitary groups (Irish Republican Army that sought the unification of Ireland and the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Freedom Fighters who wished to maintain Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom). Northern Ireland is now slowly transforming out of conflict, but as it does so, more debates become concerned with interpreting the past and the nature and meaning of victimhood.

This chapter maps the spatial distributions of conflict-related deaths in Belfast (Northern Ireland’s principal city) in an attempt to unravel the complex social, political, and ethno-religious underpinnings of the Troubles. Religious segregation is claimed by many analysts to be a major contributory variable to explaining the pattern of conflict-related deaths, and as such we explore a modification of the spatial segregation index to examine the distribution of Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast. After analyzing the extensive database of deaths and their spatial occurrence, the chapter ends with a series of lessons. Most notably, politically motivated attacks can be unpredictable but also seem to cluster within highly segregated and low social class neighborhoods located within close proximity to interfaces between Catholic and Protestant communities. In addition, paramilitary attacks are difficult to profile demographically, and the vast majority involve civilian casualties.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Measuring and Mapping Conflict-Related Deaths and Segregation: Lessons from the Belfast ‘Troubles’, in D. Z. Sui (Ed.), Geospatial Technologies and Homeland Security, Springer, p. 83‐101