Belfast Telegraph

Twaddell bid to build bridges with nationalist neighbours

Twaddell is now 'buzzing' with plans for renewal

By Rebecca Black

Residents at Twaddell Avenue say they want their neighbourhood to become known for something other than the loyalist protest camp which was the focus of the world's media.

A piece of wasteland on the street became the epicentre of Northern Ireland's latest parading stand-off when in July 2013 the Parades Commission banned three Orange lodges from their return home past the Ardoyne shops.

Camp Twaddell then started its 24/7 protest, which went on until a deal was struck last month.

It bore witness to nights of violence at the interface and police also maintained a permanent presence due to threats of violence, clocking up a policing bill of an estimated £21m.

Now - a week after the camp was removed following an historic agreement - the community want to make their area known for something other than the stand-off, and to build bridges with the neighbouring nationalist community.

House prices have plummeted, from £85,000 to as low as £40,000.

Yet it wasn't always like that.

In 2009, Twaddell Avenue won an award for being the best kept street.

The patch of land where the camp was based is now up for sale and the Twaddell Woodvale Residents' Association say they would love a new community centre to act as a beacon for the brighter future they want to build from their current tiny premises.

"We are always up for a challenge and want to be instrumental to bringing the two communities together," group vice-chair Alfie McCrory told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The camp came - and it came with the support of the community - we didn't think it would last three years," he said.

"So over the last week and a half since it left, it has been a bit strange, a lot of relief that a resolution has been seen, the two communities have come together and the parade has been allowed back home.

"But even before the camp, things had been very negative. The camp was only the latest in a long line of problems in this area; we have had problems with schools, unemployment, attacks on buses, attacks on homes and no services - all this area has is one shop.

"When the camp came it had an effect on the whole community, obviously with the police coming in every night at 6pm and sealing the place off, from 4pm the dogs were out sniffing for bombs.

"The work we were doing stopped when the camp came, everything stopped. We had been trying to get services and cross-community activities."

Now the camp has gone, Mr McCrory said there is a buzz in the area.

Another resident, Evelyn Bennett, told of effectively having a curfew, knowing that she had to be back to her house before 7.15pm each evening or risk being cut off by the security operation.

Mr McCrory said the International Fund for Ireland's (IFI) Peace Impact Programme has helped them, and said they were the only funders who came into the area while the camp was ongoing.

Last year, the group gained £68,749 in support from the fund to develop a 10-month initiative which has enabled more than 300 people in the area to access a wide range of training and learning programmes.

In February, the IFI awarded £109,857 to continue the Peace Impact Project for 12 months, with an emphasis on training and employment and conflict transformation.

The money has been used for ventures such as offering training for SAI licences - door supervisor licences - to some of the long-term unemployed and teaching some of their young people how to train.

IFI chairman Dr Adrian Johnston said residents are "driving a resurgence and securing positive and sustainable changes in their area".

Belfast Telegraph


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