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Support grows for Northern Ireland peace walls to stay

Stormont rethink of 2023 demolition target urged as survey shows attitudes hardening

By Rebecca Black

Published 16/12/2015

A man looks up at one of Belfast’s peace walls
A man looks up at one of Belfast’s peace walls

More people than three years ago living alongside our peace walls want them retained.

Just 35% said they wanted to see the peace walls separating interfaces come down eventually - a drop from 44% in 2012.

Ulster University academic Jonny Byrne said it was now time that Stormont reconsidered its 2023 target to have all the walls removed.

The Public Attitudes to Peace Walls survey, carried out by the UU, found that 30% of residents who lived near these boundaries would prefer they remain standing.

Significantly more Protestants (44%) than Catholics (23%) wanted the status quo.

Just 14% of residents wanted to see the walls removed, 35% wanted them to come down some time in the future, 6% wanted the walls opened for some accessibility, and 7% wanted them to look more appealing.

The figures represent a hardening of attitudes among those who live close to interfaces from 2012, when a survey then found that 44% wanted to see the walls come down at some point in the future, 14% wanted them to come down immediately, and 22% felt they should stay as they are.

It will come as a blow to the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, whose Together Building A United Community strategy includes a target of removing the walls by 2023.

Other findings include:

  • Only 3% of Catholic residents and 1% of Protestants felt any economic benefit from the peace process.
  • Just 28% felt very safe in their community.
  • 20% never interact with people outside of their community background.
  • Almost 50% feel the peace wall is protecting them from either republican or loyalist violence.
  • 54% have lived on the peaceline for more than 50 years.
  • 47% said they knew nothing at all about the OFMDFM target to remove all peace walls by 2023.

Dr Byrne told the Belfast Telegraph that OFMDFM should review the target.

"There is no surprise when we look at the results in terms of where we are after what has happened in the last three years and some of the big issues about culture, tradition, flags, bonfires etc," he said.

"Sixty per cent felt the 2023 target was unrealistic and not achieveable. That raises big questions for Government, considering we are going into 2016 and have only seven years left."

There are currently 52 interface structures separating Protestant and Catholic areas located in Belfast, Portadown, Lurgan, and Londonderry.

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