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Councillors defend 170m Derry peace fence

By Brendan McDaid

Politicians have defended their decision to press ahead with a new interface peace fence following criticism from the Community Relations Council (CRC).

The decision by Derry City Council to erect the 170m fence at the playing fields at Lisnagelvin in Londonderry was rubber-stamped at a recent meeting in the city.

The move was taken following anti-social behaviour and pitched battles between youths from nationalist and unionist estates across the city.

But the CRC has branded the measure — due to be implemented at the Irish Street and Top of the Hill interface this summer — regrettable.

CRC chief executive Duncan Morrow said: “It is always |a tragedy when real concerns about personal safety drive local communities to the conclusion that only a physical barrier can provide security.

“CRC recognises the needs for safety of all people.

“However, we are also concerned that the erection of barriers should be seen as a temporary intervention which indicates deeper underlying issues which need to be tackled if these |barriers are not to be permanent divisions.”

Mr Morrow said that over the past 40 years, it had proved much easier to put barriers up than to take them down again across Northern Ireland.

“The security concerns of |the local community about anti-social and sectarian violence are genuine and justified,” he said.

“With this in mind, a solution needs to be explored that goes beyond the short-term remedy of putting up a barrier to ensure that it does not become a permanent fixture.”

SDLP councillor Gerard Diver said that the new fence was less a peace line than a “functional response” to community concerns over anti-social behaviour.

Mr Diver said: “I understand people’s concerns that this is not necessarily the best approach, |and I agree there is a wider issue there about trying to tackle anti-social behaviour.

“But I think there is a difference between this initiative and peace lines in Belfast, where entire areas have to be segregated off.”

Deputy mayor and DUP councillor Drew Thompson said: “There has been a lot of trouble here over a long period of time. |Police have logged a whole catalogue of incidents over a six |month period.

“The suggestion was that this would possibly be a deterrent |to stop people going in there |and having running battles with one another.

“To me, it will not only safeguard the residents but also the playing fields.”

Both councillors stressed the fence was not an isolated measure and that a lot of good work was being done by community groups on the ground.

Mr Thompson said: “One of the initiatives is the Policing and Communities Together project.

“I was with the young people last night from Irish Street, Top |of the Hill, Tullyally and |Curryneirin areas and there is |a lot of good work going on |here and I think that will be |developed.

“Listening and talking to them, one of their main concerns is a lack of recreational and other |facilities.”\[Michael McSwiggan\] four towns and cities in the province — 42 in Belfast, five in Derry, five in Portadown and one in Lurgan

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