Duncairn Community Partnership (DCP) is supported by the IFI’s Peace Walls Programme, which works to help local residents reach a position where they are comfortable with dialogue around the removal of Peace Walls in their area.
DCP’s manager Ciarán Shannon says the best way to measure progress is by attendance at events, which bring young people, senior citizens and families together across the traditional divides.
Attendance has been consistent for some events, growing in others and watching new relationships form and established relationships further develop has been evident, as the year has progressed. Recently a resident from Parkside, who had been at DCP’s International Peace Day event, sadly passed away.
“Someone from Tigers Bay sent a card over with some money in it to the family. It’s wee things like that that make it all worthwhile – those human stories,” says Ciarán.
The International Peace Day event saw residents who live close to Alexandra Park gather and mix together for a tasty, sit down Sunday lunch.
“It sounds simple but it is all about getting relationships started, maintaining them, making people feel more comfortable in each other’s company and then working to help them consider changes to the physical structures, which divide them. When the potential for change is tapped into, progress is made.”
DCP is working with the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and residents in North Queen Street who have agreed to remove a big, unsightly fence that was put up to protect houses during sectarian conflict of the past.
A challenge for the project is statutory agencies having different concepts of timescale to residents. There is a real danger of losing momentum if residents, such as at the North Queen Street site, agree to changes but bureaucracy and red-tape then mean fast-tracking delivery cannot take place. Often even small physical changes take two to three years to deliver, causing frustration for local residents, especially when the Agencies require further rounds of consultation on the same issues.
Every six weeks DCP’s Programme Reference Group sees representatives meet up with council staff, church leaders, police, statutory bodies and others to see what we can do to move on.
Big achievements in two locations include North Queen Street and Parkside Gardens where there is agreement from residents to remove fences but delivery is slow and is out of the hands of the PWP groups who don’t have the finances or the responsibility for physical changes.
Good progress, maybe 80% so far, Ciarán says, is happening in Alexandra Park, and at the Hillman Court barrier, there is an agreed visioning process to take to residents to transform that fence.
Seasonal holidays provide opportunities to reduce tensions and deliver even more cross-community work. Ciarán recalls a St Patrick’s Day event for seniors from New Lodge, which is mainly Catholic and Tigers Bay, which is predominantly Protestant. The New Lodge residents did not want to upset Loyalist Tigers Bay residents by arriving into their area for the event dressed in green.
“New Lodge ones were being very sensitive and not wanting to upset people by wearing green,” he said.
“There was some laugh when they went into the venue in Tiger’s Bay and all the women there had green, white and orange bows around the place!”
Ciarán hopes work can continue with DoJ to speed up change of physical interfaces, with further progress to support communities for the long-term. It is challenging work often opposed by those who want the status quo to remain.
“A challenge for us is that there are still people on both sides who don’t want to see positive change. They try to stymie the work we are doing but, for us, we just put our heads down and get on with it because residents deserve better.”
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