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Lack of progress in removal of 'peace walls' is a damning indictment of community strategy

 

The recent admissions that 'peace walls' targeted for removal by 2023 are unlikely to come down by then and the deeply disturbing fact that almost 20% of the walls/barriers are not even included in the scheme is cause for deep concern.

The lack of progress and serious omissions in the Together: Building a United Community (TBUC) strategy have attracted little attention.

Four years ago, when Sinn Fein and the DUP agreed the strategy, they announced that all peace walls would be removed by 2023.

Now, almost halfway through that period, serious doubt is being cast on the possibility of that happening and it has emerged that more than 20 barriers are not even included in the scheme.

This is not about operational difficulties preventing targets being reached. Rather, it is about the political desire to maintain the walls, maintain division and continue to manage a deliberately divided society for political advantage and gain.

Excuses as to why sufficient progress is not being made are already being prepared and we are being subjected to insulting discussions about what constitutes a wall, when is a fence a barrier and is a gate actually a buffer. Communities must be involved at all stages of the process and, where fears exist, they must be addressed. But divisive agendas cannot be used to hold this city and beyond to ransom.

The walls must come down. That is the inalienable principle. There will be no shortage of people and parties who will tell us why it can't be done, but, if we are to progress, develop and achieve our collective potential as citizens and as a city, that task must start now.

GEMMA WEIR

 

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