Londonderry walls security gates to be removed

City centre manager Jim Roddy, mayor Kevin Campbell and Justice Minister David Ford watch as security gates are removed The mayor of Derry, Kevin Campbell, said the decision to remove the gates was about "normalising the city"

The majority of the security gates on Londonderry's walls are to be removed.

Eleven out of the 16 gates will be taken down over the next few weeks.

Justice Minister David Ford said gates around the Fountain estate will remain in place.

His department has also invested £28,000 in additional CCTV coverage in and around the walls.

Mr Ford said he hoped confidence could be built in the community so that people can feel safe and secure without the need for interface structures.

"We obviously have to take account of the fact that there are small numbers of people in this city as there are elsewhere in Northern Ireland who are trying to drag us back," he said.

"But what I sense when I visit Derry is a very positive feel of people wanting to see movement forward, of the benefits of the City of Culture, of the Fleadh and all that coming forward and that is engaging with communities across Derry in a very positive way."

The mayor of Derry, Kevin Campbell, said the decision to remove the gates was about "normalising the city".

"It is about taking down symbols that have been here over 30 years," he said.

"There will still be a number of gates that are there to protect the Fountain, and you would obviously have to keep them there at the moment. But I think we have to be looking in the long term at having all those gates and barriers removed."

'Throwback'

DUP security spokesman Gregory Campbell also welcomed the removal of the gates, but warned against taking out the remainder.

"It's not just people in Londonderry, but tourists and visitors alike don't like to see the aesthetics, the culture and history of the walls being encumbered by those gates which are a throwback to a previous era thankfully now past and I think everyone will welcome that," he said.

"I think where a problem may emerge is if some people then imagine that because it is excellent and good news for three-quarters of the walls it would be equally excellent and good news to contemplate removing them at the Fountain and Bishop's Street area.

"In the course of the past four or five weeks we've seen exactly why they can't be removed because there was a sustained attack on the Fountain from elements outside so I think we've got to take this very gradually."

From the late 1960s large parts of the walls were inaccessible as a result of being closed off by screens, gates and fences erected at interface areas by the security forces.

In 2009, Derry City Council assumed responsibility for closing the gates at night after the Police Service of Northern Ireland said the threat from dissident republicans made the nightly duty too dangerous.

A private security firm hired by the council will continue to open and close the remaining gates at Bishop Street under the walls at the Fountain estate.

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