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Unionist estate respectful after Martin McGuinness death, says community worker

Most residents at the unionist Fountain housing estate in Londonderry are respectful following Martin McGuinness's death, a community worker said.

A project aimed at dismantling barriers at interfaces between working-class nationalists and unionists in the city has been running since 2013.

Donna McCloskey, a peace wall development worker at the Bogside and Brandywell Initiative, said people largely did not want to discuss negativity surrounding the Sinn Fein leader's IRA past.

She said: "They may not agree wholly with everything he has done but there is a certain amount of respect (for death) there.

"Derry is a small community and very tight-knit."

Many in the Fountain have refused to comment on Mr McGuinness's death.

Those harbouring reservations about his life do not want to cause offence to his grieving family, like any other's.

Ms McCloskey said progress had been made in building community relations.

"People were apprehensive from both sides about breaking down those barriers but in small steps we have managed to bring people together."

For the last three years they had a Christmas market on the boundary between the nationalist and unionist communities, and a spring market a few days ago marked St Patrick's Day.

The community worker said the Fountain residents could not believe what the people of the Bogside went through during the Troubles.

"They could not believe that they shared so many problems and similarities.

"All they wanted to do was rear their families in peace and ensure the next generation had better opportunities than they had."

She said participants were sharing stories from the conflict through the peace walls project.

"Sometimes it is difficult for residents to overcome things but you have to come at it at your own speed and your own acceptance levels.

"You cannot force anybody to accept that I am further on in the peace process than you are. That is not the way it works.

"There has to be an understanding and luckily enough we have good people involved who see that and they have mutual respect for each other."

She said it was a good time to be from these areas.

"It comes naturally to make sure that unionist, loyalist people flourish in the Fountain.

"It is to nobody's benefit that they don't flourish within their community and it needs to be a vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic community within the area."

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