Northern Ireland

Security cameras added to west Belfast peaceline

Media captionA retractable curtain was installed at a Catholic church in east Belfast

New security cameras have been installed at one of west Belfast's main sectarian interfaces.

The Department of Justice said it hoped the cameras would lead to gates in Northumberland Street, which separate Protestant and Catholic communities, opening for longer periods.

The route between the Falls Road and Shankill Road is closed at night.

Jack McKee, pastor of a church that straddles the peace line, said he hoped the cameras would create confidence.

"We would much rather have cameras in place than gates separating people," he said.

"The gates are there just to keep people apart. Having the cameras in place will certainly help to reassure the community."

It has also emerged the Department of Justice has spent £76,000 adding to security measures at an interface in east Belfast interface over the past two years.

The measures include a retractable barrier in the grounds of St Matthews Catholic church on Newtownards Road.

This new fence is currently in an open position but residents in the Short Strand are calling for it to be closed.

Patricia Johnston said: "It should be kept closed to protect the people that live behind it and to protect neighbours on the other side."

In May 2013 the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness announced that so-called "peace walls" are to come down within the next 10 years as part of the Stormont Executive's "shared future" plans.

But Queens University academic Neil Jarman, who has studied peace barriers, said that is an "extremely optimistic" time frame.

He said: "In a lot of cases residents living near the barriers are very reluctant to see them being removed."

Mr Jarman said there are about 100 peace barriers scattered across Belfast. It has been estimated that a third of them have been built since the paramilitary ceasefires were called in the 1990s.

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