Scheme considers peace line removal
Tentative first steps towards bringing down the barriers that separate Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland have been taken.
A new project costing almost half a million pounds was launched in north Belfast where the highest number of so-called peace lines have been erected.
The £471,000 scheme hopes to facilitate talks between divided neighbours; improve community relations and create the conditions for the eventual removal of the concrete barricades and steel fences.
"Once, this area was a focus for division with regular bouts of violence marring the streets. Now, we have created a new spirit of co-operation based along real, achievable goals which will enhance the lives of all our residents and families," said Ciaran Shannon from Groundwork NI, a cross-community organisation which has developed the programme.
"Dialogue aimed at creating better community cohesion and confidence will be encouraged as part of this initiative, as will engagement with those who may not have previously participated in community development activities."
Community consultation will begin on a range of sites across north Belfast, stretching from the Westlink area to Alexandra Park.
Residents will be able to access computer software to help visualise how their area could look without the imposing peace lines. They can also consider ways of softening the image of the walls and transforming derelict sites into cross-community hubs.
A new mutual space facility, proposed for a site on the Duncairn Gardens peace line, will also form part of the consultation process.
There are more than 90 peace walls dividing neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland. They have increased since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.