Project coordinator Sarah Lorimer says the resident-led scheme to improve the appearance of the area is making great strides as it gives residents the opportunities to have their voices heard and develop Good Relations across the Peace Walls.
Since 2014, robust community consultation, relationship building and creating attitudinal change for the reduction, removal and declassification of interface barriers has been ongoing.
Engaging with the women and a youth project on a 10-week programme with architects regarding the redesign of a Peace Wall and buffer zone land and how that space could be used for community benefit has given hope.
“It is an innovative way of working. The 3D model of that will be showcased to the wider community to encourage debate around that,” Sarah said.
Sarah is also proud of the work on the Men’s Shed initiative in the Cliftonville area. Previously unused land is being used for polytunnels and allotments and wood workshops.
Of course, all the interesting conversations are helping but over the last year Sarah believes not securing an agreement on the Aftercare Package to be delivered through the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) around the safety and security of homes has been stalling a lot of their work.
In Rosevale Street, Aftercare Packages were agreed for nine homes following a barrier reduction of 1.2m. To date, the work has only been completed on one home. Work continues to try to secure the same for the other homes as was promised by DOJ in 2018. This would build confidence and potentially enable further barrier reduction in the area.
Work has also been undertaken by the group on a ‘Consent’ paper to agree what level of community buy-in would be required for changes to Peace Wall/barrier sites to proceed. Agreement by DoJ on this Consent/ Consultation process would provide a guideline for the project to work to.
Sarah says: “Its absence makes physical change a totally arbitrary process which frustrates communities and is neither helpful nor constructive.”
She also highlights a lack of pro-active political support, drive and involvement over the last year but is tackling this by being part of the North Belfast Peace Wall groups working collectively to try to draw in more politicians to discuss and support work on Peace Walls.
“We were one of the first Peace Wall projects to complete a community survey so we will monitor and seek evidence on attitudinal change in this next one.”
Residents have told Sarah they appreciate being asked for their opinion about the future of their area and she can see that trust is being built.
Conversations that happen in the media and political circles are happening in communities and increasing contact is strengthening this. Project work and the benefits of the Girdwood Community Hub right on the interface is seeing genuine relationships evolve.
The rusting yellow main Peace Wall barrier now painted sky blue is an example of the simple measures that can make all the difference. The view is better in the area, with the Rosevale site wall reducing from 2.4m to 1.2m demonstrating confidence within the communities.
“It still needs a lot further regeneration work but we will keep trying and keep raising the issues.”
She adds: “We organised an oral history project about the lives of people over the last 30 years and it has given residents the opportunity to reflect on how difficult it was to live there during the conflict.”
“The Peace Walls: An Oral History: Voices from those living in the Shadows of the Walls” - publication is also helping wider society have insight into the complexity of life on the interface and the vital work ongoing there.
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