chapter  10
Anything goes: Architectural destruction in Northern Ireland after ‘the Troubles’
ByRita Harkin
Pages 18

From the civil rights march in Derry in 1968, up until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland experienced a violent conflict surrounding its constitutional status, known as ‘the Troubles’. The goal of the unionist and overwhelmingly Protestant majority was to remain part of the United Kingdom. The goal of the nationalist and republican, almost exclusively Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland. During the Troubles, the scale of the killings perpetrated by all sides-republican and loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces-eventually exceeded 3,600. As in other civil conflicts, the Troubles inflicted harm upon architecture and the built environment. Although built heritage was not directly targeted by bombers, the collateral damage suffered by historic fabric as a result of the targeting of commercial properties by paramilitaries intent on disrupting the economic life of the region, was significant. In Belfast, these included the Grand Opera House, the Crown Bar, Robb’s Department Store and May Street Hall. However, the damage and destruction that took place during the conflict years is only one

aspect of architectural destruction in Northern Ireland. It might be expected that the establishment of a cease-fire in 1994, and the subsequent unfolding of the peace process, would have brought an end to architectural destruction and the initiation of a new climate of architectural rehabilitation and repair, but this has not been the case. Rather, in the post-conflict environment, a culture has flourished that prioritises short-term profit over long-term sustainable regeneration.This post-conflict culture, arguably, has caused more destruction to the historic fabric of Northern Ireland than the period of armed conflict itself. Indeed, it may be argued that, a decade after the cease-fire, the historic built fabric of the province is more at risk than ever before.