Derry's new 'peace bridge' officially opens on Saturday

Derry's new 'peace bridge' officially opens on Saturday

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Londonderry's 'peace bridge' has been officially opened to the public.

It cost £14m to build and is the length of two and a half football pitches.

An opening ribbon ceremony was held after speeches and lunch for invited guests at the city's Guildhall.

Six hundred school children from all faiths sang a specially commissioned song as the bridge was officially declared open on Saturday afternoon.

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, said it would be a catalyst for change in the city.

In a speech to mark the event, NI First Minister Peter Robinson thanked Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and EU commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, for their commitment to the project.

The bridge was funded by the EU's Peace III programme under the Shared Space initiative which supports projects that bring together communities that have been formerly divided.

Officially opening the bridge Mr Hahn said: "One of the key objectives of the European Union is to bring people together to live in peace, with a common respect both for shared values and for diversity.

"I believe that the peace bridge will help further this goal for the people of Derry - Londonderry. It will encourage greater levels of cross-community integration and usher in a new period of peace and reconciliation for the city."

Speaking just before the official opening, BBC reporter Elaine Magee said there were people "absolutely everywhere".

"They're standing on walls, they have crowded in along the quays, everybody is so eager to get that first glimpse of the bridge's official opening," she said.

Stanley Page was one of those who attended the event .

"It's absolutely unbelievable - all the colours and the children on the bridge and the sun has just come out, it's an incredible sight," he said.

"The whole city is behind it and I hope everybody's aspirations come to fruition."

'Landmark'

A fireworks display is planned for Saturday evening and people will also line the bridge with torches in a "vigil of light".

The bridge covers a distance of 312 metres and will carry pedestrians and cyclists to and from the cityside and Waterside.

The large concrete sections which form the deck of the bridge had to be shipped over from Wales, weighing 1,000 tonnes.

They were lifted into position by one of the UK's largest sea-going cranes, the Mersey Mammoth from Liverpool.

It is hoped the bridge will be the focus for not only major regeneration of the area, but the symbolic union of what was once a divided city.

The chairman of Derry's regeneration company, Ilex, said the peace bridge would become the city's iconic image.

Sir Roy McNulty said it would become a "recognisable landmark".

"It is not as big as the bridge across Sydney Harbour, but for Derry I think it will provide a memorable image and I think people will see it on postcards and images of the city," he said.

"It will stand for Derry."

Many people from opposite sides of the Foyle are upbeat about the impact the bridge will have

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