‘Throwing Petrol on the Fire’: Writing in the Shadow of the Belfast Urban Motorway

  • Stephen O’NeillEmail author


This chapter outlines the history of planning, protest, and violence that shadowed the Belfast Urban Motorway, or the Westlink, which offers a case study of the relationship between urban development and the marginalization of the working-class areas of the city, such as the Lower Falls and Shankill. The chapter explores the wide-ranging opposition to the scheme, which came from both local community activist groups as well as paramilitaries, and the collaboration of the motorway planners with the security forces in what can be read as a clear instance of deliberately planned violence directed at a social grouping. The chapter then turns towards literary representations of the scheme, analysing the part-memoir, part-history, Falls Memories (1982), written by the then Sinn Féin candidate for Westminster Gerry Adams, who sought to record the ravages of urban planning on the Lower Falls community. By the 1990s, however, novels such as Robert McLiam Wilson’s Eureka Street (1996) and Glenn Patterson’s The International (1999) document a peace process facilitated by the development of a neoliberal agenda that cultivated revanchist attitudes towards the built environment. These novels in fact reflect the marginalizing logic of planning in Belfast even as they try to critique it.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity College DublinDublinIreland

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