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Progress continues to be made in bid to transform Northern Ireland’s peace walls

Paddy Harte, chairman of the Board of the International Fund for Ireland at Belfast’s Peace Walls (Liam McBurney/PA)
Paddy Harte, chairman of the Board of the International Fund for Ireland at Belfast’s Peace Walls (Liam McBurney/PA)

Good progress is continuing to be made in negotiations to transform some of Northern Ireland’s peace walls which separate communities.

More than 100 barriers remain and range from high concrete walls to gates and fences to buildings, and are owned by a number of bodies, from the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and private bodies.

They were erected from the 1970s in response to attacks and disorder during the Troubles.

The International Fund for Ireland support programmes in areas divided by peace walls working with local residents to support changes or in some cases removals.

Fund chairman Paddy Harte said there has been major progress in a number of areas including the opening of a gate at Flax Street in north Belfast as well as talks around a barrier at Adam Street, also in north Belfast.

He also pointed out that while it is often quoted that more barriers were built after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1998 than before, no new barriers have gone up since 2008.

“While there are about 100 remaining, mostly in Belfast, there has been lots of progress, at Black Mountain, the gate being opened at Flax Street,” he told the PA news agency.

“We have in Moyard where there was a run down playground at a peace wall, now social housing is going up.

“In greater Whitewell a wall has been reimaged, and it looks like what normally should be there.”

He also described major gains in Londonderry where a wall has substantially come down, while at North Queen Street in north Belfast a wall which was right up against houses has come down.

“There are quite a number of successes. Like everything success is contagious and as good stories come out, there are more signs of movement,” he said.

Mr Harte said they first started collecting statistics around peace walls in 2017 when 68% of people wanted peace walls down, which went to 76% in 2019 and 83% in 2022.

“I qualify that by saying that brought down in the lifetime of our children or grandchildren,” he said.

“So our challenge, as in the stakeholders and the groups, is to do whatever we can not to pass that on to the next generation, that whatever we can do in our lifetime is the challenge, because that is to say we want our children and grandchildren to be safe but we’re also passing on the only visible symbol of division and sectarianism, and we have an obligation not to leave it to the next generation, where we possibly can.

“It’s a big challenge and it’s a difficult thing but we need to set ourselves that.”