Chinese-born Alliance MLA Anna Lo has compared Derry’s Walls with the Great Wall of China and says opportunities to promote them world-wide are being missed.
The South Belfast Assembly Member, who is also chair of Stormont’s environment committee, recently visited the historic Walls. She is critical of the Environment Agency which maintains the Walls, claiming it is “detached” in its approach.
Department officials are due to report back on a number of recommendations and suggestions made after the committee met with members of the Holywell Trust, an umbrella community organisation, to discuss the best way to safeguard the Walls for future generations.
Ms Lo said: “I have visited both the Derry Walls and the Great Wall of China and I think the Walls in Derry are better — they are certainly not as boring as the wall in China.
“Derry’s Walls are so varied, there is a different view everywhere you look and there are shops, cafes and other things to see near the Walls, but in China it is quite boring, with just fields everywhere.
“It does concern me that Government departments here do not show our Walls enough respect. There are direction signs just stuck on them and buildings have been granted permission to be built that obscure part of the Walls.
“It is also very surprising that the person whose job it is to manage the Walls is actually based in Belfast. We have such a great asset,so we must market it better.”
A recent ‘top 10’ guide published by CNN omitted Derry from its list of best walled cities in the world, which Mark Lusby from the Holywell Trust described as a “lost opportunity”.
Mr Lusby, who’s co-ordinator of the trust's City Walls Heritage Project, was among those who escorted the committee on a tour of the Walls. He said his greatest hope is that the department recognises the importance of giving local groups a say in what happens to the Walls.
“It is ridiculous that organisations like St Columb's Cathedral, St Augustine's Church, the Apprentice Boys, residents of the Bogside and the Fountain have no say in what happened to our Walls,” he said.
Derry’s Walls celebrate their 400th anniversary in 2014, but unlike other scheduled monuments, they don’t have permanent staff or a dedicated museum.