West Belfast peace wall removal 'a major milestone'
The dismantling of a peace wall which has separated communities in west Belfast for nearly three decades has been hailed as a major milestone on a journey towards a brighter future.
The three-metre high brick wall, which has divided Springfield Road and Springhill Avenue since 1989, was originally erected to protect residents and the nearby New Barnsley police station.
But work has now begun to transform the site beside two derelict houses. New artwork has replaced pro-Palestinian and republican murals which were painted on the Springhill Avenue side of the barrier.
Seamus Corr, project coordinator for the Black Mountain Shared Spaces Project, said: "This about more than just changing the physical look of this area, it shows that communities are willing, with support, to work towards positive change.
"The removal of a wall is not a starting point or an end point, but a significant milestone on the journey towards a positive future."
International Fund for Ireland chairman Dr Adrian Johnston said there should be "no place for physical separation barriers in a truly reconciled society". He said: "While we have not yet reached that stage, the community-led decision to remove this division demonstrates a desire for change."
Dr Johnston said the vast majority of barriers are located within communities that continue to "suffer disproportionately" as a result of conflict.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said it "demonstrates what can be achieved when community and statutory organisations work together to build confidence within communities".
Stormont has promised to eliminate all of Northern Ireland's peace walls by 2023.