Community Celebrates Peace Wall Removal
Published: Thur, 11 Aug 2016
Residents at a North Belfast interface held a celebration event today to mark a new era after the removal of a peace wall by the Housing Executive.
Speaking at the event deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said:
“Government can set ambitious targets to reduce and remove all interface barriers by 2023 and put in place strategies and resources, but no progress will be made without the support of the local community.
“Government must take an active role and create the conditions and circumstances which makes progress possible. The work of community based organisations like TASCIT supported by the Housing Executive, the International Fund for Ireland and others, has brought about real and meaningful change in this 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. Real peace is not made by bricks and mortar but by building respect and trust. 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.”
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 It has now been replaced by a family friendly landscaped area and railings with decorative panels, which local residents helped to design.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:
“This is a very positive day for the people of this community and indeed for all communities 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.”
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. Its Board member, Allen McAdam said:
“The communities’ decision to remove the wall on Crumlin Road and the changes that are now taking place illustrate what can be achieved with strong local leadership and by fully engaging those who live next to physical barriers. It is right that we celebrate the progress that has been made and the hard work that has made this transformation possible.
“Our Peace Walls Programme aims to assist residents reach a position where they feel it is safe and appropriate to consider the future of interface barriers. The removal of a wall is not a starting point nor an end point, but a significant milestone on the journey towards a positive future.”
The Housing Executive has made a film documenting the peace walls removal. The film allows an interface community to tell their story of living behind a peace line for 30 years and their hopes for a better future.