Derry security gates to be removed
Security gates surrounding the centre of the UK's first City of Culture are to be removed.
Work has started to take down 11 of the 16 gates which were erected on Londonderry's historic walls to quell sectarian disorder during the Troubles.
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford said he hoped the move would send a positive message about a city once blighted by some of the worst of the violence during the 30-year conflict.
"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. Derry has a real opportunity to show what the city has to offer.
"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."
Derry's walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by the Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. They are about 1.5 kilometres in circumference and form a walkway around the inner city.
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.