Representatives from the Twaddell, Ardoyne, Upper Ardoyne and Woodvale/Shankill Communities make up the TASCIT partnership which is committed to improving community confidence and help people develop relationships at a pace that suits them.
Forcing people to become friends doesn’t work so TASCIT aims to improve community relations by using good communication, compromise and understanding to build relationships across traditional divides. Over the last year improving community confidence, managing expectations and listening to people has helped make progress in areas of Belfast, which suffered greatly during the conflict. Their staff work with both sides of the community and understand the hesitancy of some to engage with this challenging work. There needs to be time given to build trust and relationships.
Rab McCallum, TASCIT coordinator says: “Work takes place at different rates because we have different perspectives to consider.”
“For one community an issue might seem more of a challenge than for the other so we don’t set the agenda, we articulate what communities are saying and try to negotiate to find a way forward.”
“It often takes creativity and compromise to find a way through.”
Good relations work is continuing on the Crumlin Road where a Peace Wall came down on the Nationalist side and, on the other side of the road in the Rosebank Street area, there are ongoing structural and environmental improvement changes too.
“An access gate being put into one of the openings in the current boundary wall has been delayed but we are hoping that work begins again shortly,” Rab said.
“The gate will then be installed, and conversations about opening it up as a pedestrian access gate will begin to see if progress can be made in the coming year.”
The lack of an agreed Aftercare Package for communities needs to be resolved by the Department of Justice (DoJ) so that more progress can be made on security issues associated with interfaces.
“Residents living beside Peace Wall structures need to feel safe in their homes if security grills are to be removed from windows or security structures reduced. An Aftercare Package would help allay fears and improve quality of life for those living with existing security structures.”
In the absence of this or sufficient budget to enable progress, physical change has been slow. The project focuses then on confidence building, bringing people together through events, trips and documenting experiences.
IFI funding supports those who live closest to the structures where people want to see change. Securing additional funding beyond the immediate interface complements this Peace Walls work by developing wider understanding and engagement.
“Everybody hopes as we move forward that this work can be done collectively. We often have to consider four different perspectives on things. We then have to find a way of moving forward that doesn’t make things even more divisive. We can’t impose solutions.”
Plans for the future include continuing to encourage positive engagement and working with people to make the time right for change. Over the last year people have been stepping outside their comfort zones, seeing issues from the perspectives of the others, taking part in courses and committing to further interaction.
Rab adds: “If we’d had these conversations 30 years ago, we wouldn’t have been where we were. These people have had very volatile relationships in the past but at least we are now talking about the creation of those divisions – these are challenging and difficult conversations but they are happening. All of that is very heartening to me.
“We constantly have people making reference to how their experiences with us have helped. We are seeing that generally. People are more relaxed.”
“Physical change in areas is even better again, but it takes time and relationship building is vital to ensure this. It also takes the statutory bodies with responsibility for delivering change to be working with us – to step up to the plate. It can’t be done without them.”
For further information about our funding programmes, or for information on how to apply for funding, please contact the person(s) or organisation(s) identifed at the end of the relevant programme summary in the areas of activity section.
International Fund for Ireland
28-32 Alfred St.
+44 (0)28 9031 2884