Northern Ireland

Peace walls: Support for removing barriers in Northern Ireland grows

Flax Street barrier, North Belfast Image copyright International Fund for Ireland
Image caption More than 100 barriers remain between communities across Northern Ireland

The number of people living beside Northern Ireland's peace walls who want them removed within the next generation has risen, according to a survey.

More than 100 barriers remain between communities across Northern Ireland. The first barrier was erected in 1969.

The International Fund for Ireland, which commissioned the survey, is pressing for both political leadership and funding to bring them down.

However only 19% of those surveyed supported removing them immediately.

The IFI has been sponsoring community initiatives to help residents feel safe enough for their re-imaging or removal.

Its chairman Paddy Harte said that while progress was being made, the delay in the delivery of a promised aftercare package was slowing these efforts.

"We cannot fund the physical removal of barriers nor fund the much-needed economic and social regeneration of interface areas following removal," he said.

"These are the responsibilities of the relevant departments and agencies who own the barriers and/or who have responsibility for regeneration programmes."

Survey says:

  • Some 76% of responses from nearby residents were strongly in favour of the peace walls being removed within the lifetime of their children or grandchildren, compared to 68% two years ago
  • Some 34% of respondents reported anti-social behaviour (including drug misuse) as the key issue of local concern, compared to 10% in 2017
  • While the Catholic, nationalist and republican (CNR) community favours change sooner (85% compared to 72% of Protestant, unionist, loyalist residents), both communities want to see barrier removal within the next generation
  • Researchers interviewed 637 people from across the six participating Peace Walls Programme areas for the face-to-face survey between May and June 2019
  • Some 19% of respondents supported removing walls 'now' in comparison to 13% in 2017.

Since 2012, the IFI has invested more than £5.2m in its peace walls programme, but Mr Harte has urged politicians and the government to step up.

Image copyright International Fund for Ireland
Image caption Ongoing political uncertainty in Northern Ireland is hampering progress in getting peace walls removed, says the IFI

"Regrettably, ongoing political uncertainty means that progress is being hampered," he said.

"Political will and leadership is essential alongside the necessary ring-fenced resources and funding. Increased collaboration is critical to advance barrier removal and regeneration for local communities living in interface areas."

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