Belfast Telegraph

The gate which shows us the way to peaceThe opening yesterday of a gate in the wall that divides Alexandra Park in North Belfast marked a milestone in the peace process.

It demonstrated clearly that the mood of the people in the area is not to maintain barriers, which are ludicrously termed "peace " walls, but to have them dismantled in step with the growing understanding between the two local communities.

The people of the nationalist Newington community and loyalist Tigers Bay have been separated since 1994, but the majority of the people living in this area have made it clear that the past should be consigned to history.

They now want to get on with their lives, and without barriers.

Much preparation took place before yesterday's event, and the plan is to open the gate from 9am until 3pm on weekdays for a three-month period. If this proves successful it will be opened permanently.

The goodwill for such a development was clear yesterday when the gate was opened by the Justice Minister David Ford, as children from Holy Family and Currie primary schools from across the divide looked on.

The minister underlined that people wanted this to happen, and he emphasised that the opening of the gate and the opportunity for children to mix with each other "is what a shared future is all about."

It would be naïve to assume there will be no incidents.

People with vested interests in conflict might try to make their own point, and the local communities and all those who made the gate possible will need to hold their nerve.

However, it is unthinkable to have to contemplate the effect of having to close this gate again after only three months.

People on both sides must do their utmost to make sure this does not happen.

The gap in this peace wall must stay, and there are 48 other peace walls in Belfast where more gates must be opened to facilitate closer links, and to ensure a better future for all.

The picture of children from both sides shaking hands yesterday says it all.

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