1. ITV Report

North Belfast community celebrates peace wall removal

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, along with Housing Executive Chief Executive, Clark Bailie and residents Paddy Copeland. Photo: Presseye

Residents at a north Belfast interface have held a celebration event to mark a new era after the removal of a peace wall by the Housing Executive.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was in attendance, said such progress on reducing the number of peace walls and removing interface barriers by 2023 cannot be made without the support of the local community.

Dismantling a wall 30 years after it was built does more than just transform the physical landscape. It sends out a strong signal progress is being made and the most encouraging thing isn’t the bricks of an 8 foot wall lying flat on the ground but the fact it was a community led decision.

As a result of conversations and relationships formed and developed within the community we can achieve greater reconciliation, create better educational, training and employment opportunities, improve access to essential services and deliver a better quality of life for those living in interface areas.

Reconciliation has been hampered by physical divisions so to help build a truly shared, united and reconciled community, we need to remove these structures. The Executive will continue to support communities on this journey and I commend the excellent work of the Twaddell, Ardoyne and Shankill communities which has been vital in shaping progress in North Belfast.

– Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness speaking as he attends the celebration event along with Housing Executive Chief Executive Clark Bailie as well as residents Paddy Copeland and grandson Sean Og. Credit: Presseye

The 8ft brick wall, which stood at Ardoyne for 30 years, was removed in February – the first of the Housing Executive’s peace walls to come down. It has now been replaced by a family friendly landscaped area and railings with decorative panels, which local residents helped to design.

The community-led decision to transform the interface barrier came about after years of relationship building and talks within and between communities in north Belfast.

The community was supported by the Housing Executive, the International Fund for Ireland, the Department of Justice, Department for Communities and the Executive Office

Integral to the work is the Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities In Transition (TASCIT) which organised the celebration event together with the Housing Executive.

Rab McCallum, a member of TASCIT and North Belfast Interface Network Coordinator, said it was a positive day for the people of the community, and all those segregated by physical barriers.

The residents who live here have decided to reject the fear and negativity that epitomize peace walls and to embrace hope and a better way of life for their children and their grandchildren. It should be a proud day for all concerned but our gratitude must be primarily directed to the courageous and visionary residents who have taken this historical step.

– Rab McCallum, community worker

Housing Executive Chief Executive, Clark Bailie, said: “The Housing Executive’s role has been to enable the community to take this positive step and remove this physical and psychological barrier 30 years after it was first erected.

“The transformation of this wall will help to regenerate the area for everyone in the community, it will change the physical environment and the lives of those people who live behind it. Today, it’s wonderful to see local families enjoying this new open space.”

The International Fund for Ireland has supported community engagement in the area through its Peace Walls Programme.

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