Justice Minister David Ford has announced that the majority of security gates in Londonderry’s historic walls are being removed.
Over the next couple of weeks, 11 out of the 16 gates will be removed and in order to facilitate the work, the Department has invested £28,000 in additional CCTV coverage in and around the walls.
The gates where Bishop Street passes under the walls at the Fountain Estate will remain in place.
From the late 1960s huge swathes of the walls were inaccessible as a result of being closed off by screens, gates and fences erected at interface areas by the security forces. In 2009 Derry City Council assumed responsibility for closing the gates at night after the Police Service of Northern Ireland said the threat from dissident republicans made the nightly duty too dangerous.
A private security firm hired by the council will continue to open and close the remaining gates at Bishop Street under the walls at the Fountain Estate
Mayor of Derry Kevin Campbell said the removal of most of the gates was a positive step.
"I fully support any initiative that makes the city's historic walls more accessible. This development really shows how Derry is moving forward and availing of the unique opportunity that the City of Culture title has given us to showcase our city, its assets and its people, and I am delighted that we can celebrate the walls as a shared space," he said.
Speaking during a visit to the walls, David Ford said he hoped the move would be welcomed by residents, businesses and visitors alike.
"In this, the year of Derry/Londonderry City of Culture, the walls will play a central role in the festivities and are a must see for any tourist visiting the city," he said.
"For tourists and residents alike, I very much welcome the fact that we have been able to remove a number of the security gates that are a blight on these historic walls. The walls can now be enjoyed without the imposing structures that point to our past rather than our future."
Last month it was announced that the Walls of Derry and the ancient town of Pompeii are to be digitally scanned as part of a major European 3D project.
The mile-long walls – the largest scheduled ancient monument in Northern Ireland – are being scanned for their 400th birthday.
The work is being carried out as part of the 3D-ICONS Project, which involves 16 teams working across 11 different countries.
As well as Londonderry's 17th century City Walls, also getting the 3D treatment are Pompeii in Italy and the Newgrange neolithic site in the Republic.
The work is being undertaken by the Discovery Programme in Dublin – the Irish partner in the 3D-ICONS project.