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Planning in divided societies: A case study of the introduction of regional planning in Northern Ireland, 1964-1970

Maureen Elizabeth Moriarty-Lempke, University of Massachusetts Amherst


As it is often the failure of governments to meet the perceived needs of identity groups in a divided society, the challenge is incumbent upon them to provide a fair and equitable distribution of a variety resources, from land, to infrastructure, to financial assistance to industry. Thus, urban planning can create the physical basis for either ameliorating or exacerbating ethnic conflict, as these conflicts are often manifest in claims on the physical environment. A strong interest in studying the dynamics of planning in polarized societies is reflective of the need to fully understand the implications of urban change in this context. This research is an exploration of national planning mandates and their effects upon ethnic conflict. Specifically, it analyzes how communal relations can deteriorate even when government leaders make genuine efforts to meet the need and demands of competing groups. This paper is a study of Northern Ireland in the early 1960s during the introduction of regional planning by way of the Matthew and Wilson Plans. These national policies, intended to promote both physical and economic development and better community relations, actually contributed to a deepening of tensions between the Catholic and Protestant communities. Through archival research, a series of three case studies undertaken at the regional, city and neighborhood levels uncovers how the plans were perceived by both groups to potentially destroy their ability to secure economic opportunity, determine the use of their land, and maintain their identity and way of life. Therefore, the plans created a context which instigated the worst collective fears of both communities, ultimately resulting in protest and violence and what had initially promised to be a relatively peaceful decade ended in some of the worst violence the region has ever witnessed.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Moriarty-Lempke, Maureen Elizabeth, "Planning in divided societies: A case study of the introduction of regional planning in Northern Ireland, 1964-1970" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9932333.