Over 100 Peace Wall barriers remain in Northern Ireland

Exhibition on the Peace Wall in Belfast

More than 100 Peace Wall barriers remain in Northern Ireland more than two decades after the Belfast Accord was signed, a leading fund has said.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) revealed there has been significant progress on barriers in previously controversial areas, but said more than 100 communities still separate.

The barriers range from high concrete walls to gates, fences and in some cases even buildings and are owned by a number of agencies, the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as well as private bodies.

They were erected from the 1970s in response to the attacks and disorders of the Troubles.

Walls of Peace in Northern Ireland
An area where a Peace Wall once stood at the top of Crumlin Road in Belfast opposite Holy Cross Church (NI Housing Executive / PA)

The IFI supports a number of community projects aimed at transforming local barriers and ultimately seeing their removal at a pace that local residents are comfortable with.

It is part of a program that the IFI has been carrying out since 2012.

Some of the more recent successes include the removal of a high peace fence on North Queen Street, an area of ​​north Belfast which experienced significant violence during the unrest.

The Duncairn Community Partnership (DCP) said new safety glass was installed in the windows and doors of the homes before the fencing at the front of the properties was removed.

They said that prior to that, residents had not been able to use their front doors or gardens.

A high solid peace wall and fence has also been removed from the Hillman Court / Duncairn Gardens area.

Harry Smyth (left) and Rab McCallum (right) with other members of the DCP project team at the launch of Covid Quiltess (IFI / Press Eye / PA)

DCP Director Harry Smyth said local residents were involved in designing a new interface, which he described as a “complete transformation into a pretty green fence that you wouldn’t even know is. a wall of peace ”.

“It’s absolutely awesome and some of the homes at New Lodge are enjoying the sun for the first time in 30 years,” he said.

“The North Queen Street program has been delayed slightly by Covid and also by Brexit which has slowed the supply of materials. However, he has now finished changing the area for households.

“The people living at this wall of peace could not use their front doors because they opened on a barrier. Now they not only use the facade of their houses, but they get new gardens and the whole area has been opened up and completely transformed.

Progress has also been made in the Ardoyne / Woodvale area, where the Flax Street gates leading to Crumlin Road have been blocked by a strong barrier for 40 years.

The Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities in Transition (TASCIT) group is working on its replacement with new automated access doors for vehicles and pedestrians.

While the barrier remains, the group hopes the program will continue soon.

Nearby, the Housing Executive has completed environmental improvement work in the Woodvale / Columbia Street neighborhood, with a new red brick peace wall to be installed on Crumlin Rd and new decorative peace doors for replace the solid barrier.

Project director Rab McCallum said there were now more meetings between the two sides of the community in the area.

“We know of course participants who hadn’t ventured into each other’s fields for 50 years because they were intimidated,” he said.

“They are now spending time there as part of the course, which has a positive impact on them and the community at large, as it lets people know it is safe to do so.” “

In West Belfast, the Black Mountain Shared Space Project has secured £ 6.4million funding from Peace IV to develop a shared space at the Finlay site between Springfield Park, Ballygomartin and Springmartin.

Work is also underway at the old Moyard Flashpoint on Upper Springfield Road.

Project leader Seamus Corr said the regeneration of the Finlay site is bringing communities together.

“It is an exciting time for both communities and we look forward to the coming months and years to see it come to fruition,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Londonderry, the Bogside and Brandywell initiative has progressed, with the Dogleg Gates in the Fountain and Bishop Street estate now open 24/7 for the first time in 40 years.

Development officer Kyra Reynolds said they need to start from scratch to build trust between residents on either side of the divide.

“Now that trust has been established, we are able to launch more direct and impactful initiatives that allow communities to grapple with the past and discuss lingering divisions and try to address them,” a- she declared.

“We believe it is a key achievement that we have been able to keep residents engaged with each other throughout Covid and that through diversionary activities such as Big Bog Barbeque in July, we have kept the calm during a period of great tension associated with the problem of protocol and the parade season. . “