Belfast Telegraph

Peace walls review could take place

A Government review of all Belfast's peace walls to determine which could be removed in the future may soon be undertaken, the Justice Minister has said.

David Ford said he was keen to establish where progress could be made to take down the long-standing physical divisions between communities.

But he stressed action would only be taken with the support of people living in the areas. The minister was responding to Assembly questions on the peace wall situation.

While he hailed recent developments in north Belfast that saw security gates opened at Alexandra Park and at the junction of Newington Street and the Limestone Road, he noted that on Newtownards Road interface in east Belfast, where riots broke out during the summer, barriers were being strengthened.

The issue was raised on the Assembly floor in the wake of Belfast City Council's decision to examine whether some of the 40 or so peace walls could be taken down.

The SDLP's Alban Maginness had asked whether the Justice Department, on the back of the council's move, would now undertake a systematic review of all the walls.

Mr Ford said the question raised "a very significant point".

He added: "The question is how far we are seeking to promote on a wider basis that which was carried through in the motion in Belfast City Council to which he refers, how far we are simply responding in an ad hoc way to wishes expressed by local communities?

"It seems to me the fact we have seen significant movement in Alexandra Park and Newington Street in one week is an indication of the way moods are changing and, certainly, where there are moods changing my department will be assisting in any way it can, and if that requires a more systemic examination of plans then certainly I would be keen that we hear from community representatives where people wish to see movement forward."

DUP MLA Robin Newton and Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland, who both represent constituents in east Belfast, insisted that any moves could only happen with full community support.

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