Robinson and McGuinness want “peace walls” down within 10 years
First Minister and Deputy First Minister outline plans to tackle sectarianism and division
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have set a target of 2023 to bring down all of Northern Ireland’s 60 so-called peace walls.
At Stormont yesterday the First Minister and Deputy First Minister outlined a range of measures to tackle sectarianism and division including toppling the North’s interface structures within 10 years.
Some peace walls of brick and steel stand up to 18ft high and may be miles long through housing areas. They were intended to protect people from violence during the troubles but remain in place 15 years after the Belfast Agreement. They were built in areas of sectarian tension in Belfast, Derry and Portadown, as well as through the playground of one primary school in north Belfast.
The proposals also include the creation of 10,000 one-year placements offering young people from disaffected areas paid cross-community work experience, volunteer and leisure opportunities.
After a period of strain caused by the flags controversy Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness clearly signalled at Stormont Castle, where they held a joint press conference, that they are back on political track and that there is renewed impetus to their relationship.
“I believe this is probably the most ambitious set of proposals that have ever been brought forward in terms of a shared future. I believe it really will take us into a new era in terms of how we move forward as a united society,” said Mr Robinson.
As well as initiatives on creating a “shared future” between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland the DUP and Sinn Féin leaders spoke of other developments to follow in the coming weeks including an expected new economic package from Westminster and the European Union.
While they were speaking the PSNI was also confirming that in conjunction with the University of Ulster it is organising a meeting in Wales next weekend to address the issue of parades before the marching season enters its most difficult period.
Groups and individuals invited to attend are likely to include members of the Orange Order and other loyal institutions, nationalist community representatives, politicians and representatives from organisations linked to loyalist paramilitaries.