Belfast Telegraph

Derry ‘peace line’ at interface to go ahead

By Donna Deeney

Plans for a ‘peace line’ to separate two communities at an interface look set to go ahead — 15 years after the paramilitary ceasefires.

Derry City Council agreed to lodge a planning application for the barrier at a meeting yesterday.

The move comes as steps are being taken to bring down so called ‘peace walls' in other interface areas throughout Northern Ireland.

It’s expected that the 170-metre long fence at the playing fields at Lisnagelvin in Londonderry will be erected as soon as possible.

A litany of incidents at the interface, including sectarian abuse, stone throwing, attacks on the police, underage drinking and the lighting of fires have been recorded since last September.

There have also been sectarian clashes organised by social networking sites and by mobile phone.

This prompted the decision to erect the barrier, which has been endorsed by community groups on both sides of the religious divide, the PSNI and residents.

A council spokesman said council representatives had met with residents, community groups and the police to identify what type of approach could be adopted to best prevent further trouble in the area.

This led to the recommendation that the erection of the 1.8 metre high palisade fence along the Irish Street boundary of the field would significantly reduce the problems faced.

The entire project is expected to cost almost £15,000.

But the council spokesman said the PSNI had already agreed to contribute £5,000 to its cost.

At yesterday’s meeting, SDLP councillor Martin Reilly proposed that council approve the recommendations.

He said: “There has been a sustained level of anti-social activity which has been very frustrating for the residents, but although the fence is not a solution, I am happy to propose approval.”

Sinn Fein's Gerry Mac Lochlainn, who is a member of the Community Safety Forum in the Waterside, said he had attended many meetings between the PSNI and others about the issue and that the meeting had been very helpful.

He added: “It is unfortunate that we have to put up fences but there is a saying that goes ‘good fences make good neighbours'.

“The community have bought into this but it is important to put it into perspective. It should not be sensationalised.”

The DUP’s Joe Miller said he supported the fence because it was welcomed by residents but he asked about the timescale. Mr Miller added: “We are coming into the spring and lighter evenings and that attracts people to the area.

“I would not like to think that if we give agreement, then things will drag on and it will be next October or November before there is any progress.”

The city engineer told the meeting that a planning application could be launched straight away and it would only be a matter of |finance.

He added that the £5,000 promised by the PSNI was already |secured.

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