Northern Ireland

Ardoyne peace wall: Martin McGuinness hails replacement as 'sign of progress'

Martin McGuinness attended a community celebration marking the replacement of the Ardoyne peace wall Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Martin McGuinness attended a community celebration marking the replacement of the wall

The removal of an 8ft "peace wall" at a sectarian interface has been hailed as a sign of progress by Northern Ireland's deputy first minister.

The brick wall had stood as a barrier in Ardoyne, north Belfast for 30 years, until it was demolished in February.

It has been replaced by a landscaped pathway, lined with trees and railings, which local residents helped to design.

Visiting the site on Thursday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness praised their reconciliation efforts.

'Community-led decision'

"Dismantling a wall 30 years after it was built does more than just transform the physical landscape," Mr McGuinness said.

"It sends out a strong signal progress is being made and the most encouraging thing isn't the bricks of an 8ft wall lying flat on the ground, but the fact it was a community-led decision."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The peace wall once stood in front of Holy Cross Catholic Church on the Crumlin Road

In 2013, Mr McGuinness and the then First Minister Peter Robinson set a 10-year target to bring down all of Northern Ireland's peace walls.

The 2023 target was part of Stormont's shared future proposals aimed at tackling political division and sectarianism.

The brick barrier along the Crumlin Road in Ardoyne was the first of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive's peace walls to come down.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The wall has been replaced by a landscaped pathway, lined with trees and railings, which local residents helped to design
Image caption Residents of houses lining this section of the Crumlin Road are no longer looking into a brick wall

Ardoyne has been at the centre of two of Northern Ireland's most controversial sectarian stand-offs.

They were the 2001 Holy Cross dispute, in which protests were held against Catholic schoolgirls walking to Holy Cross primary school and the Ardoyne parade dispute, which led to serious rioting on 12 July over several years by both republicans and loyalists.

The deputy first minister said the 2023 peace wall target cannot be achieved without the support of communities at interfaces.

"Reconciliation has been hampered by physical divisions so to help build a truly shared, united and reconciled community, we need to remove these structures, Mr McGuinness said.

"The executive will continue to support communities on this journey and I commend the excellent work of the Twaddell, Ardoyne and Shankill communities which has been vital in shaping progress in north Belfast.",

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