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Video: Belfast's 'Berlin moment' as a first peace wall demolished

By Rebecca Black

Published 26/02/2016

A north Belfast peace wall that was used by dissident gunmen as cover for an attack on PSNI officers has been demolished.

It is the first peaceline in Northern Ireland to be razed and comes after more than a year of negotiations with residents.

School caretaker Patrick Copeland - who has lived just yards from the eight-foot wall on the Crumlin Road for 30 years - welcomed the move as "our Berlin moment", but admitted he was concerned about the possibility of attacks by loyalists this weekend.

He said that two months ago, when it was confirmed the wall was coming down, the home of a neighbour had its windows smashed, and that paint-bombs were thrown at two other houses.

The nationalist Ardoyne interface with the unionist Woodvale has remained one of our most sensitive flashpoints in recent years, with clashes after an Orange parade was banned from walking along a section of the Crumlin Road.

It has also seen a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour, and in December 2013 dissidents used the peace wall to fire 10 shots at a PSNI convoy.

An estimated 110 peace walls remain across Northern Ireland. This is the first to be removed, although a number of other barriers have been altered.

The wall, which enclosed part of the Ardoyne, is also the first Housing Executive-owned barrier to be taken down. 

It was erected in the mid-1980s at the same time as new family homes were built.

It was designed to give protection to residents living on the interface.

The wall almost down
The wall almost down
Patrick Copeland with the bricks
Contractors moved in early yesterday to demolish the peace wall at the top of the Crumlin Road opposite Holy Cross Church in Belfast

Contractors moved in early yesterday to remove the 8ft high brick structure to make way for railings and decorative panels. The work is expected to be completed in June.

Mr Copeland gathered 17 bricks from the debris of the wall for his 17 grandchildren.

"Years ago the Berlin Wall came down, now a wee place in Belfast called Ardoyne is seeing its wall come down," he said. "I hope they are happy for us too.

"I hope more walls come down now. It's about time.

"I'm a bit worried about this weekend, but hopefully it will all be fine.

"There are just a few hotheads on both sides of the community."

Rabb McCallum led the community effort and heads up the Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities In Transition group.

He described the move as a "brave and a bold step taken by residents who have seen more than their fair share of the conflict, yet have an eye on the future and a better way of life for themselves and their families".

Mr Callum added: "Hopefully, their course of action will inspire others to consider how we move forward together as a society."

Stormont's Programme for Government has committed the Executive to removing all peace walls and barriers by 2023.

Belfast Telegraph

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