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Derry peace wall's future to be discussed by residents

By Donna Deeney

Published 24/09/2015

Residents from the loyalist Fountain estate have been separated from their nationalist neighbours living in Bishop Street and the Bogside side for decades
Residents from the loyalist Fountain estate have been separated from their nationalist neighbours living in Bishop Street and the Bogside side for decades
Almost 90 peace walls separate Protestant and Catholic communities across Northern Ireland

The thorny issue of life behind Londonderry’s peace wall will be tackled head-on by people from both sides of the political divide to test if the time is now right for the barrier to come down.

Residents from the loyalist Fountain estate have been separated from their nationalist neighbours living in Bishop Street and the Bogside side for decades by a long brick wall topped with high fences.

As part of cultural awareness week, the two sides will be brought together to discuss the past, present and future of the wall.

For the last two years concerted efforts to unite the residents has paid off dividends.

Some of the gates along the peace wall have been removed, while others, although still in place, remain unlocked.

But there is still scepticism about a breakthrough in community relations.

Among those who will be attending the event is William Jackson who has lived in the Fountain for all his 52 years.

He said: “Things really have changed but as far as taking the wall down completely, as far as I am concerned that is still a no-no.

“That wall is the reason there are still Protestants in the West Bank of city and while I understand the aspiration is to have no wall, that is not where we are just yet.”

Sue Divin, head of Community Relations department at Derry City and Strabane District Council, said the key to success had been the agreement of both communities to change.

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She said: “A lot of work has been done over the past two years to bring the two communities together and take the focus off the negative image associated with peace walls.

“The Past, Present, Future project planned for October 2 is a continuation of that where the residents and anyone else who is interested can sit and discuss in an informal setting what it was like in the past, what is being going on between the communities and what they would like the future to hold.

“Everything is driven by the two communities and nothing will be done without them.”

Part of the day will be set aside to watch a DVD produced by young people who recorded interviews with older residents about what life was like living in an interface area  during and after the Troubles.

An update on the achievements of the past two years including residential trips and the hugely successful market day held along the wall last year where crafts made by residents during the months prior to the market were sold.

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