Belfast Telegraph

Belfast interface gate replaced

The barrier between the Falls Road and Shankill Road had been in place since 1969 but is now being replaced.

Work at the Townsend Street interface gates in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)
Work at the Townsend Street interface gates in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

A 50-year-old security gate which divides Northern Ireland’s two communities is being replaced.

The imposing steel barrier which divides a side street between the mainly Catholic/nationalist Falls Road from the mainly Protestant/unionist Shankill Road has been in place since August 1969.

Contractors started work at Townsend Street on Monday morning, installing a new modern see-through gate close to the solid one which remained in place during the work.

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Work going on at the Townsend Street interface gates in Belfast, that are being replaced with see-through barriers. Originally built in 1992 the 2.5 metre high pedestrian and vehicle gates open Monday to Friday on limited daily hours and operate along the peace lines that separate predominantly Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighbourhoods on the Falls Road from predominantly Loyalist and Unionist Protestant neighbourhoods of the Shankill Road. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. See PA story ULSTER Peacewall. Picture date: Tuesday June 04, 2019. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The Townsend Street gates are currently closed at night.

They are opened between 7am to 5.30pm from Monday to Thursday, 7am to 6pm on Friday and closed at the weekends.

The move comes following what structure owner the Department of Justice has termed “considerable community engagement work”.

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Work going on at the Townsend Street interface gates in Belfast, that are being replaced with see-through barriers. Originally built in 1992 the 2.5 metre high pedestrian and vehicle gates open Monday to Friday on limited daily hours and operate along the peace lines that separate predominantly Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighbourhoods on the Falls Road from predominantly Loyalist and Unionist Protestant neighbourhoods of the Shankill Road. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. See PA story ULSTER Peacewall. Picture date: Tuesday June 04, 2019. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A spokeswoman for the department described the current gates as in “poor condition” and said the work is expected to last a week.

She said there has been “considerable community engagement work” ahead of the changes to the interface structure through the Falls Shankill Community Forum.

“Such a forum, bringing together community, voluntary and statutory organisations in a partnership with residents and local elected representatives, is essential to delivering positive change at interface areas,” the spokeswoman said.

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Work going on at the Townsend Street interface gates in Belfast, that are being replaced with see-through barriers. Originally built in 1992 the 2.5 metre high pedestrian and vehicle gates open Monday to Friday on limited daily hours and operate along the peace lines that separate predominantly Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighbourhoods on the Falls Road from predominantly Loyalist and Unionist Protestant neighbourhoods of the Shankill Road. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. See PA story ULSTER Peacewall. Picture date: Tuesday June 04, 2019. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The departmental spokeswoman said they hope to see “considerable community benefits” from the new gates.

These include “improving the appearance of the area; improved passive surveillance; enhanced health and safety through installation of pedestrian access gates on both pavements; the removal of concealed spaces used previously for anti-social behaviour; enhanced visibility for pedestrians and motorists; and a potential reduction in the opportunity for graffiti”.

She added: “Whilst the gates at Townsend Street are being replaced, they will continue to be a DoJ-owned and designated interface structure.”

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The largest peace wall in Belfast, at Cupar Way, which separates the Catholic Falls area and the Protestant Shankill area of the city (PA)

There are an estimated 116 barriers separating unionist and nationalist communities across Northern Ireland.

They are mostly located in Belfast but are also present in Londonderry as well as Co Armagh towns Lurgan and Portadown.

A small number have been removed or transformed, including one at a former flashpoint in Ardoyne, north Belfast, in 2016.

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