Residents at a North Belfast interface held a celebration today to mark the removal of a peace wall by the Housing Executive.
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 It has now been replaced by a family friendly landscaped area and railings with decorative panels, which local residents helped to design.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.
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.
He added: “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.”
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.”
Housing Executive Chief Executive, Clark Bailie, said: “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.