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At the official launch of the Peace Walls Attitudinal Survey - Paddy Harte, Chairperson of the International Fund for Ireland (middle) joined by Peace Walls Groups: Seamus Corr - Black Mountain Shared Space Project, Sarah Lorimer – IMAGINE, Geraldine O’Kane – Greater Whitewell Community Surgery, Ciarán Shannon - Duncairn Community Partnership, Ronnie Black – TASCIT and Donna McCloskey - Bogside & Brandywell Initiative.

Inter-Agency Collaboration and Regeneration Key to Future Peace Wall Removal

Published on:  12 Nov 2019

A survey commissioned by the International Fund for Ireland has revealed that positive progress is being made to increase engagement between communities living in the shadow of Peace Walls despite a number challenges including the current political deadlock and Brexit uncertainty.

Launched at Girdwood Community Hub, a former army barracks during The Troubles, The 2019 ‘Community Attitudes to Peace Walls Survey’ is unique as it engaged directly with those residents most impacted by interface barriers in both Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. It also analyses and compares data against the Fund’s initial 2017 Baseline Attitudinal Survey.

Findings indicate a steady increase in inter-community engagement on either side of the peace barriers since 2017, which is key to building the confidence necessary to consider future barrier removal or changes at interfaces.

While the Catholic, Nationalist and Republican (CNR) community favours change sooner, both communities want to see barrier removal within the next generation.

Communities in these areas experience high levels of multiple deprivation and are also conscious of the stigma associated with living near interfaces. They strongly believe that now is the time to break down negative perceptions through much- needed investment in regeneration, employment opportunities, addressing housing need and creating community facilities for all.

The survey also revealed a worrying rise in anti-social behaviour and arranged fights at interfaces and, while rarely of a sectarian nature to date, it is having a negative impact on work around Peace Wall removal as they are still viewed by some residents as a security protection.

When Peace Wall removal or reduction is agreed at a community level, the survey also suggests that there is often a loss of faith in the implementation process because of the bureaucracy, red-tape and long delays involved in delivery.

On top of this, the Aftercare Package promised under the 2013 Together Building a United Community (TBUC) 2013 Strategy for the removal of Peace Walls is still not available to residents to enable enhanced security at the most vulnerable homes.

Paddy Harte, International Fund for Ireland Chairman said: “21 years after the Good Friday Agreement, over 100 barriers remain as visible signs of community segregation. This is preventing much needed progress for those most impacted by the conflict and who have benefited little from a Peace Dividend to date.

“The IFI Peace Walls Programme is working hard at local level to break down the mental barriers and stigma around interface barriers, encouraging community engagement and dialogue while tackling  fears, tensions and divisions. Much more can be done to benefit these communities with a greater collaborative effort across agencies to deliver local regeneration leading to reconciliation and enhanced opportunities.”

The Peace Walls Programme is funded by the International Fund for Ireland to assist communities impacted by Peace Walls and physical barriers. It engages directly with residents living in such areas to reach a position where they feel safe and ready to begin the dialogue necessary towards the removal of interface barriers.

Since 2012, the Fund has invested more than £5.2 million in the programme to enable six community groups to deliver interventions in their area that have led to the successful alteration or removal of some physical barriers and the amending or re-imaging of others. 

“The findings from these six surveys identify that communities continue to experience high levels of social and economic deprivation and that fears around safety remain in part due to the rise in anti-social behaviour. It also highlights a number of encouraging findings compared to the initial 2017 Survey and demonstrates that the Fund’s approach of building community engagement and trust is key to future removal.

“Whilst there have been a number of successes and community agreements reached in recent months, it is clear that appropriate Aftercare packages for homes aren’t being delivered at the same pace as agreement and removal.

“We cannot fund the physical removal of barriers nor fund the much-needed economic and social regeneration of interface areas following removal. These are the responsibilities of the relevant Departments and Agencies who own the barriers and/or who have responsibility for regeneration programmes.

“The IFI is the only funding organisation carrying out sensitive dialogue around Peace Walls but it simply cannot undertake the level of physical work and financial and resource investment required alone.

“We are calling for collaboration between all statutory agencies to ensure necessary resources and investment are put in place.  Considerable work is still required to deliver significant change for those impacted the most by Peace Walls.”

He added:

“Regrettably, ongoing political uncertainty means that progress is being hampered. Political will and leadership is essential alongside the necessary ring-fenced resources and funding. Increased collaboration is critical to advance barrier removal and regeneration for local communities living in interface areas.”

Key Survey Findings:

Community Safety & Local Concerns

  • 86% of all respondents either feel ‘very safe or ‘fairly safe’ compared to 80% in 2017
  • 34% of all respondents reported anti-social behaviour (including drug misuse) as the key issue of local concern compared to 10% in 2017

Current Views of Peace Walls

  • 76% of all respondents were strongly in favour of barriers being removed within the lifetime their children or grandchildren compared to 68% in 2017 Survey
  • 67% believe barrier retention will have a negative impact on health and wellbeing of residents
  • 45% believe that additional employment opportunities would promote great attitudinal change to removal of barriers
  • 40% believe that more community facilities would provide greater attitudinal change to removal
  • 38% say that greater development of housing (in waste land) will promote greater attitudinal change to removal

Interaction and Community Relations

  • 57% of all respondents stated that interaction with the ‘other’ community occurred ‘very often’ or ‘fairly often’ compared to 51% in 2017
  • 40% of all respondents reported that they had regular contact with the community on the other side of the Peace Walls in comparison to 26% in 2017

Looking to the Future

  • There is positive attitudinal change towards positive barrier removal sine the last 2017 survey. Both communities favour change alright CNR favour change at a faster pace
  • 85% of CNR respondents were strongly in favour of the barriers being removed within the lifetime of their children or grandchildren compared to 73% in 2017
  • 72% of PUL residents were strongly in favour of the barriers being removed

The projects and areas supported by the Peace Walls Programme are:

  • Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities in Transition (TASCIT): Areas listed plus Woodvale.
  • Imagine Project: Lower Oldpark and Cliftonville areas
  • Greater Whitewell Community Surgery: Whitewell/Serpentine/ Hazelwood
  • Duncairn Community Partnership: Lower North Belfast
  • Black Mountain Shared Space Project: Upper Springfield/Moyard/Springhill/ Highfield/ Springmartin/Ballygomartin.
  • BBI Peace Walls Project (Londonderry/Derry): The Fountain estate and Bishop Street areas

To view the Surveys in full please click here

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.

Belfast Office

International Fund for Ireland
Seatem House
28-32 Alfred St.

+44 (0)28 9031 2884

Dublin Office

PO Box 2000
Dublin 2

+353 1 408 2130

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