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.”
“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
Current Views of Peace Walls
Interaction and Community Relations
Looking to the Future
The projects and areas supported by the Peace Walls Programme are:
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.
International Fund for Ireland
28-32 Alfred St.
+44 (0)28 9031 2884