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Major Peace Walls event calls for positive outcomes for Londonderry-Derry communities

on .

IFI EVENT DERRY 16.11.16 reduced

Trust must be built and residents encouraged to participate and build new relationships so communities can begin to consider a future without physical barriers.

That was the message at a major seminar in the City Hotel, which brought together community leaders, academics and peacebuilding organisations.

Organised by the Triax Peace Walls Project with support from the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Walls Programme, the event enabled local residents to hear how communities in north Belfast have worked together to unlock a range of social benefits and built trust so a contentious Peace Wall could be removed.

The seminar, which coincides with a Triax consultation on the Fountain/Bishop Street interface, heard from Dr Adrian Johnston, International Fund for Ireland; Johnny Byrne, University of Ulster and Rab McCallum of TASCIT who was instrumental in securing the removal of an eight-foot high peace wall on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast.

Dr Adrian Johnston said:
“Physical walls are a symptom of the division, not the cause of it. Change can only occur when it is delivered in a way that delivers maximum benefit for communities. If progress is to be sustainable, it is important that the right level of support is available to resolve wider issues like education, housing and access to health services. The Fund is investing heavily in this work, but other statutory agencies need to step up too.

“Tonight is about sharing understandings in order to inform and encourage progress in this city. The Triax project and the communities living near the interfaces in Londonderry-Derry deserve huge credit for encouraging people to imagine what life might be like without divisions. Challenges in this area do remain – there still are around 100 Peace Walls throughout Northern Ireland today. And, although every interface and community is different, as a funder it is pleasing to see collaboration and sharing of knowledge between our Peace Walls projects.”

Sophie Blake Gallagher, Triax Peace Walls Project Coordinator said:
“We have been working closely with the community in the city through a range of engagement activities since 2013 that encourage dialogue around peace walls and divisions. People often tend to associate the interface areas only as flashpoints for sectarian violence over the years and remain cautious of progress.

“This event aims to increase local confidence and also demonstrate how positive relations with both sides of the community can work to bring about a shared vision for future generations.

“Our engagement with residents so far has seen a change in attitudes and has resulted in the softening of some barriers such as removal of security grills from people’s homes. We are hopeful that our ongoing work will really benefit residents in the city.”