Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Peace walls could be torn down by 2022, says report

One of the estimated 21 miles of peace walls in Belfast

So-called peace walls separating communities across Northern Ireland should be brought down by 2022, according to a draft Government report.

The removal of the barriers is included in an early document from the cross-party Stormont group on cohesion, sharing and integration (CSI).

According to reports, the draft of the strategy from November outlines the removal of some 59 peace walls or barriers — used to divide Catholic and Protestant communities — located primarily in Belfast, with others in Londonderry and Craigavon.

Both Alliance and Ulster Unionist parties last year walked off the Stormont working group.

The unreleased draft document leaked to the BBC acknowledged that addressing the safety issues of people living in segregated areas would be “critical”.

While it also acknowledged that change could not happen overnight, it said: “We believe that, together with people in the local community, we can reduce the number of physical interface structures with a view to their elimination by 2022.”

The November document also addresses other areas of concern regarding a shared future such as segregated housing, parades and the Equality Commission.

The document was produced before a Belfast City Council vote in December over the flying of the Union flag led to unrest.

Both First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had hoped to reveal an agreed set of proposals before Christmas.

It’s not clear when a final version will be published.

In a statement last night the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers said: “This is a draft document, it is therefore incomplete and remains a work in progress. We are disappointed that it has been leaked.”

Factfile

The first barriers were built in 1969. They were meant to last only six months, but became more widespread, longer and more permanent. They are constructed of iron, brick, wire or steel up to 25 feet. Some have gates that allow passage during daylight. The barriers range from a few hundred yards to more than three miles in length, and are thought to stretch more than 21 miles.

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