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Lowering of north Belfast peace wall welcomed across the divide

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Work on the new barrier at Duncairn Gardens

Work on the new barrier at Duncairn Gardens

Kevin Scott

Work on the new barrier at Duncairn Gardens

The redevelopment of a north Belfast peace wall has been welcomed by residents and representatives from the divided community.

Work began on the dilapidated steel structure in Duncairn Gardens on Tuesday morning as the Department of Justice hired contractors to rip the rusted barrier down.

It will be replaced with a more modern peaceline with the bottom half made of brick, while the top half will have a fence that will allow more natural light through to the adjoining properties.

The new structure, which will continue to divide the New Lodge and Tigers Bay areas, will be significantly lower than the original.

Duncairn Community Partnership manager Ciaran Shannon said the group has been working on this project for the last seven years and said all the residents are behind it "completely".

"The work we do here is all about the residents and we wouldn't do anything without talking to them and working with them," he said.

"The residents are very happy. An old entry wall was taken away years ago and that will also be reinstated.

"To give residents that added bit of security in the meantime, there will be a temporary mesh fence going in there during the construction."

More than 100 barriers remain between communities here after the first peace wall was erected in 1969.

A survey conducted by the International Fund for Ireland last year found that 76% of people living beside peace walls want them removed within the next generation.

Speaking yesterday, one local resident said she didn't think it was a good idea to reduce the height of the wall, but another believed it was time to "live and let live".

"They have been talking about taking them down anyway," said the New Lodge man. "The older people want them up and the younger people want them down."

A Tigers Bay shop owner thought it was a great idea to refurbish the barrier. He said: "They need to start somewhere. The taxpayers will be paying for it but they might as well bring it down. It helps to do it bit by bit."

Lydia Hodgins from community development association Groundwork NI, which is located directly opposite the site, thought the redevelopment was an indication of how the community has moved forward in terms of good relations and peace.

"We're really excited about it. We think it's really positive for the area and that it's going to make Duncairn Gardens better and really brighten up the area," she said.

Councillors Guy Spence of the DUP and Sinn Fein's JJ Magee also welcomed work on the replacement barrier.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said: "The changes will reduce the impact of the existing interface fence on nearby residents, whilst continuing to provide appropriate security for local people. I welcome this as progress and commend the ongoing work across interfaces to reduce tensions, build relationships and remove physical barriers."

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