Peace Walls: Increasing contact between communities on either side of wall

More people living near peace walls want them removed within next generation - report

A peace wall at Flax Street, Ardoyne. 5 June 2019. Photograph: Darren Kidd/ ©Press Eye

A peace wall at Flax Street, Ardoyne. 5 June 2019. Photograph: Darren Kidd/ ©Press Eye

 

Two years ago, two-thirds of respondents to the International Fund for Ireland’s (IFI) Community Atittudes to Peace Walls survey in the Upper north Belfast interface area had only “irregular” contact with the community on the “other side of the peace wall”. Today, two thirds have regular contact .

“A lot of people are actually meeting their neighbours and realising that they’re not all aliens, on both sides,” resident Maureen Gill told the IFI.

“People are talking more about barriers coming down,” added May Doherty. “People are mixing more, teenagers are meeting up more in town, so I don’t see why they can’t meet up in their own interfaces.”

The Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities in Transition (TASCIT) group is one of six – five in Belfast and one in Derry – which are working with the IFI’s Peace Walls Programme in order to build cross-community engagement around peace walls in order to create the confidence to change or remove the barriers separating the communities.

Residents in this area were among those who responded to the IFI’s survey, which found that an increasing number of people living alongside peace walls want to see them removed within the next generation.

Removal

This part of north Belfast saw the first removal in over 30 years of a Housing Executive-owned peace wall, which had been on the Crumlin Road; the survey cites recent progress in conjunction with a number of other divides, including the agreed timeline for completion of the installation of a new automatic gate at the Flax Street entrance to Ardoyne.

“This site has been closed for over 30 years and there now exists local consensus for daytime opening of the new gate,” the report writes.

In a report specific to the TASCIT area, which was published in conjunction with the overall report yesterday, the IFI highlighted TASCIT’s success in bringing together from both sides of the interface.

“Without positive inter-action between residents of interface communities, there appeared to be little chance of creating the inter-communal confidence necessary for progressing barrier transformation,” the report wrote.

Challenge

“Responding to this challenge, TASCIT enhanced its community engagement programme … to provide opportunities for residents to come together in both structured and informal activities.

“Over the past two years, this has enabled several thousand residents to take part in cross-interface events, cultural trips, discussions and training programmes.”

As a consequence, compared to the 2017 report there has been “a significant increase in the numbers of residents now reporting regular contact with their neighbours on the other side of the Peace Walls/interfaces.”

“Over the last two years we’ve put a focus on engaging with the residents living in closest proximity to the barriers and really trying to increase contact between them,” Sean Oliver from TASCIT told the IFI. “It’s those small steps which we hope can take us forward.”