Community 'must have input into Derry's walls'
Community groups should have a say in how Londonderry's historic city walls are looked after, Stormont’s environment committee has been told.
A recent tour of the walls marked the first time the committee saw at first hand the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland.
Mark Lusby, co-ordinator of Holywell Trust's City Walls Heritage Project, said that appointing community groups to the management board had the potential to unite, not divide.
It would also give communities a sense of ownership of the walls, a contested space, he said.
“The City Walls Heritage Project aims to unpack the contested history that the city walls represent and to work towards celebrating Derry’s Walls as a present-day national heritage asset with the potential to unite rather than separate communities,” he said.
“We recognise the work that the environment committee already do for the walls but we do think they could be more ambitious.
“This is the largest scheduled monument in Northern Ireland but it is the only one where community groups have no say in the management and therefore it can be argued, no real sense of ownership.
“A number of groups have a direct connection to the walls geographically such as Triax which covers Brandywell, Bogside and the Fountain, as well as St Columb's Cathedral, St Augustine and the Apprentice Boys. But none of these groups have any say.
“The walls is the only monument which is managed solely by public bodies with the local community getting no input whatsoever.”
The walls mark their 400th anniversary next year,but have neither permanent staff nor a dedicated museum.
Mr Lusby would like to see this rectified.
He added: “While we understand that the committee does not have any money, it can make recommendations to the department and we questioned them about the amount the DoE does contribute to the walls in comparison to similar monuments such as Carrickfergus Castle.
“The committee has asked us to put our propositions to them in writing and we are completing that.”