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Progress on transforming Northern Ireland's peace walls 'slowed by lack of government'

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A peace wall at the top of the Crumlin Road in Belfast opposite Holy Cross Church in 2016 being demolished

A peace wall at the top of the Crumlin Road in Belfast opposite Holy Cross Church in 2016 being demolished

PA

Dr Adrian Johnston

Dr Adrian Johnston

PA

A peace wall at the top of the Crumlin Road in Belfast opposite Holy Cross Church in 2016 being demolished

The lack of devolved government in Northern Ireland is hampering efforts to transform the region's peace walls, according to the chairman of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).

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 and 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 which is now made of lower, black metal railings following agreement between the local communities.

Dr Adrian Johnston, IFI chairman, said progress on other barriers has slowed significantly in the absence of power-sharing government.

He revealed that at the start of 2018 there were 12 barriers they had hoped to see progress on. As the year went on he said it became clear there could have been movement on seven barriers if an aftercare strategy had been put in place by government to reassure communities who are ready for change.

From 2011, the peace wall gate in Alexandra Park, north Belfast, has been opened regularly. Dr Johnston said residents are now ready to make further progress but can't due to the political stasis.

Dr Johnston said political leadership, a strategy and the guarantee of an aftercare package to reassure communities are needed. He blamed the lack of political leadership for helping paramilitary organisations target young people.

He also said the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit had caused insecurity around political identity among border communities in Ireland.

On Monday, the IFI announced its latest funding package, pledging £2.6m for 17 projects across Ireland which seek to deliver positive change. This includes £652,828 to five projects in the Peace Walls Programme across Belfast and Londonderry.

Dr Johnston warned the fund alone cannot deliver on the scale needed without support.

Belfast Telegraph


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