Under Dark Shadows

Peace, Protest, and Brexit in Northern Ireland

by Roz Goldie (Author)
©2023 Monographs XII, 224 Pages


«An original, personal, powerful book. Anyone interested in contemporary Northern Ireland will gain much from reading it.»
(Richard English, Professor of Politics and Director, Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University Belfast)
«Goldie provides us with a theoretically informed and empirically rich analysis of the fragile dynamics of post-conflict in Northern Ireland. Looking «away from the clean streets and shining glass» she reveals the deep and dark complexity of transitional processes but clearly maps out the need to bring politics, violence, communities and policy into relation in building a more durable and inclusive peace.»
(Brendan Murtagh, Professor of Urban Planning, Queen’s University Belfast)
Rioting at Belfast interfaces in 2021 sparked fears of renewed conflict. A tour around these contested places some days later raised fundamental questions about the peace process. Why was violence still erupting here? Weren’t sectarian interfaces supposed to have gone with the reforms in governance and legal changes enshrined in the Belfast Agreement? The untidy truth about urban development, continuous violent protest and paramilitary activity sits uncomfortably alongside orchestrated protests against the Irish sea border, the legacy of conflict, the abuse of flags and emblems, slow reform of public administration and lack of political leadership necessary to peace-building. This book provides an extensive history of key components of the Northern Ireland peace process, possible answers to long standing vexed questions and some light under dark shadows.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of pictures
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER 1. A personal tour of the interfaces – April 2021
  • CHAPTER 2. Good Friday, 1998 – the end of peace walls?
  • CHAPTER 3. Politics, protest and sectarian violence
  • CHAPTER 4. The Grace Family Centre – Progress in planning at interfaces?
  • CHAPTER 5. Narratives on interfaces and a challenge to the planning system
  • CHAPTER 6. Peace and the symbolism of conflict
  • CHAPTER 7. The legacy
  • CHAPTER 8. Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol
  • CHAPTER 9. Equality: Too big an ask?
  • CHAPTER 10. Stability, terrorists and inertia in peace
  • CHAPTER 11. Concluding comments and more than a glimmer of hope
  • A late comment on Brexit and the Protocol
  • Bibliography
  • Index

←vi | vii→


I mention individual people in order of their appearance in the book rather than implying their relative importance. Each person has had a much-appreciated role in helping me produce the end product – though none is responsible for my interpretations of fact or conclusions. I am indebted to Professor Peter Shirlow, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, Liverpool University for writing the Foreword and his continued collegiate and friendly support. Gerry Robinson, who played a key part in finalising the research for my last book, took me on that challenging tour of the Belfast interfaces and continued to challenge, correct and encourage me to the end of this journey. His knowledge, experience and wisdom in this field equals that of any academic or professional.

Dermot O’Kane, Director of Planning and Building Control, Belfast City Council, generously gave his time, answered some very naive questions, read a number of early drafts and patiently guided me through the labyrinth of planning strategy and regulation – communicating complex issues with the ease of a skilled communicator.

Dr Paul Gallagher, Trauma Education Officer at Wave, has been an inspiration for many years as one of the seriously injured who rose above all the challenges in his life and campaigned for the ‘Troubles pension’. He was charming and generous with his time in helping me write about that aspect of the legacy of the conflict.

Brendan Murtagh, Professor of Urban Planning, Queen’s University Belfast, was truly enthusiastic about my book and shared his own work, tactfully made suggestions on some first draft chapters and restored my then-flagging confidence in the project.

Professor Richard English is the Director of the George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University Belfast, where I have been a visiting scholar for over two years. He gave me advice on a number of key issues in the book – and read it – and reassured me ←vii | viii→that, should I need it, he would support a request for an extension of my time at the Institute.

Professor, Lord Paul Bew generously agreed to peer review the book when House of Lords business on legislation on the legacy and Northern Ireland Protocol was demanding a great deal of his time. Lauren Van Metre, Director, Peace, Climate and Democratic Resilience at the National Democratic Institute, Washington DC kindly agreed to read and endorse the book – for which I am grateful.

Commissioning editor, Tony Mason of Peter Lang Group, International Academic Publishers, has been exceptionally helpful, professional, patient and encouraging throughout the entire publishing process. No matter how much a writer wants to be read it takes the backing of a publisher and editor to make that happen – thanks.

←x | xi→



Roz Goldie has been and remains one of Northern Ireland’s shrewdest but most modest commentators. Her role in the peace process, social justice developments and the capacity to communicate, especially when speaking truth to power, has been impressive if not inspiring. The theme of Roz’s writing both within this book and elsewhere is replete with the objective analysis of material and other realities. This is the work of examination, analysis and the questioning of a society that can enable significant shifts, such as the near ending of violence, but is less capable in achieving a system to provide the flexibility, litheness and capacity to end conflict in a manner sufficient to deliver an all-encompassing peace dividend. The problematic of a two-speed peace process is indicative of what the author contends – political vision. This we are correctly informed is due to competing nationalisms or ethno-sectarian constructs that deliver a political system that replicates the hybridity of identity and pluralism emergent within society.

Within this book, we encounter the realities of situations in which civic best provides for meaningful social outcomes when Northern Ireland’s political parties cannot locate ‘discernible political gains or losses…’. In essence, when votes do not matter the role of inter-community partnership thrives. It is that level of sharpness that is located throughout this account in which we encounter cold, hard and sober comment. Whether it is the Home Office, the Democratic Unionist Party or Sinn Fein, Roz steers us through their gaffes, ideological confrontation and the immiserations of their actions and policy failures. Yet Goldie reminds us that these various machinations cannot unravel the embedded nature of what has changed post 1998. Sectarian and conflict-related violence have declined dramatically, inter-community partnerships have emerged and the desire to engage in armed conflict has receded.

←xi | xii→

Incisive writing provides a robust and critical review of the contestations and their various discourses around space. Regarding neo-liberalism, the author questions the new economies place within the spaces within communities that were burdened most by conflict. She questions models of community relations that are moralising and far from reflective of the effects of capitalism upon how people experience change and legacy. Challenging the often-nonsensical claim that interfaces are sites of poverty as opposed to questioning how the system reproduces poverty in such places. As with the failings of rights-based discourses that steer away from the social injustices of austerity, elitist education and the rejection of class politics. It is within this account through a range of approaches and data collection that we locate much needed analytical explanation of not merely the description of outcomes but the more important causes. Circuits of power here are understood as both neo-liberal assault and the ethno-sectarian politics of spatial inequality.

As this books reminds us, if one positions their politics around nationalists and ethno-sectarian sentiments they undermine the capacity to build and locate the conditions necessary to deliver meaningful change. As Roz reminds us within this account, it is the political entrepreneurs and their adherents who lack breadth of approach and who determine funding strategies that facilitate interfacing and segregation. After decades of peace-building, the shaping of space and place is held tightly by a political elite in order to reproduce their own power, place and even electoral privilege.

Professor Peter Shirlow FAcSS
The Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool

←xii | 1→


The seeds of this book began when the National Democratic Institute in Washington asked me to revisit my work from the early years of this century. That was in late 2019. At the end of an extensive interview with Lauren Van Metre of the National Democratic Institute, I recall saying The shadow of Brexit is the footprint of the constitutional struggle. As with many off the cuff remarks, it now seems appropriate, although that was just where our conversation led. It was a short contract, but it led me to review the rest of my work, after some years of absence, which began a journey – interrupted by the pandemic – that restarted in April 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic, the global climate change crisis and now the war in Ukraine may dwarf the seemingly small issues of Northern Ireland. However, the history of Ireland and the relatively recent history of the peace process demonstrate the longevity of hostilities, the tenacity of bitter memories and the fallout of unresolved war crimes. This book is a view from the places where peace in Northern Ireland has not reached. It starts with a tour of the Belfast ‘peace walls’ – the sectarian interfaces that serve as a magnet for violence – in the days after the April 2021 rioting that the world’s press and media saw as the re-ignition of the Northern Ireland conflict.


XII, 224
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (March)
Northern Ireland Peace Process Urban Planning Leadership in Politics, Law and Public Administration Under Dark Shadows Peace, Protest, and Brexit in Northern Ireland Roz Goldie
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2023. XII, 224 pp., 10 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Roz Goldie (Author)

Roz Goldie is a visiting scholar at the George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University Belfast. Former BBC producer, editor and manager of Radio Foyle her academic research addresses the outworking of reforms in the law, politics and public administration during the Northern Ireland peace process. Her last Publication, A Dangerous Pursuit maps the untold history of the Trade Union sponsored anti-sectarian unit Counteract.


Title: Under Dark Shadows
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238 pages