Belfast Telegraph

Protestants in Derry area want even higher peace walls, Karen Bradley told

By Donna Deeney

Residents of a Protestant enclave in Londonderry have told the Secretary of State about their fears of further violence.

Karen Bradley met people in the Fountain estate on a whistlestop visit to the city yesterday. Ms Bradley was welcomed to the area, where residents voiced concerns of further sectarian violence at the interface with the Bogside.

She was in Derry for a series of engagements including a meeting with council chiefs to discuss potential investment from the 'city deal', a Government initiative which gives local areas powers to help support economic growth and job creation.

During her visit to the Fountain, Ms Bradley met people who live at the interface and who bore the brunt of violence orchestrated by dissident republicans during the run-up to July 12.

Residents have asked for the security fence to be raised to protect them from further attacks ahead of the Siege of Derry celebration on August 12 - one of the biggest annual celebrations of loyalist culture in the city.

Grace Curry, who lives on the interface, was among the residents who outlined their concerns to Ms Bradley, who had faced criticism for not visiting the estate earlier.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has already visited the area, as have SDLP mayor John Boyle, DUP leader Arlene Foster and the Anglican Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Rt Rev Ken Good, along with his Catholic counterpart Dr Donal McKeown.

Ms Curry said: "It was good to have the opportunity to speak to Karen Bradley and tell her our concerns about the security fence.

"She took her time in getting here and while I don't want to say she was shamed into coming, we have had two visits from Simon Coveney, the Shadow Secretary of State (Tony Lloyd) and the Chief Constable (George Hamilton), so I think she had no option but to visit us. She was welcomed nonetheless and I feel she genuinely listened to us.

"We told her we wanted the Perspex removed because when they come from the other side and bang on the Perspex it would scare the life out of anyone. It is like an explosion, it is terrifying."

Ms Curry said residents wanted the wall raised to stop the petrol bombs and bricks reaching their houses.

"We are less than two weeks away from the August 12 celebrations and then they (nationalists) have their bonfire on the 15th, which means no one sleeps because you just don't know what is going to happen," she added.

Ms Bradley was greeted by Janette Warke from the Cathedral Youth Club, which is at the heart of the Fountain.

Inside the youth club Ms Bradley spoke privately to residents as well as political representatives from the DUP, Derry and Strabane councillor Graham Warke, Foyle MLA Gary Middleton and East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell.

Janet Jackson, who returned to the Fountain seven years ago after living for 32 years at the interface, also appreciated the chance to speak to Ms Bradley.

She too is concerned about a resurgence of the violence, having been caught up in gunfire from dissident republicans attacking police who were protecting Fountain residents earlier this month.

Ms Jackson said: "I lived here for 32 years and endured a really bad time before I moved to the Waterside for six years, but I had to come back because this place is my home.

"Things had been quiet, which is why I came back, but this summer was like a return to the bad old days."

The streets of the Fountain are painted in the colours of the Union flags being flown from almost every lamppost and preparations are under way for the 11th night bonfire in August.

John Hetherington said no amount of intimidation will stop the residents from celebrating their culture.

He said: "The petrol bombs, stone throwing and sectarian abuse that we live with never really goes away at any time of the year, but it has been particularly bad this summer.

"Since the attacks in the run-up to July 12, things have quietened down, but not completely.

"We are coming up August 12 and the people in the Fountain are determined to celebrate their culture and enjoy their day, nothing is going to stop them.

"If these people start up again, it isn't going to change what we do.

"We do not want to see a return to violence, particularly the elderly residents and parents like myself."

Belfast Telegraph

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