Notorious Ardoyne peace wall demolished after 30 years
A NOTORIOUS peace wall created three decades ago has been demolished, just months after several interface attacks in the area.
The eight-foot barrier, on the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne in north Belfast, is to be replaced with railings and "environmental improvements", the Housing Executive has said.
At the end of last year, three homes near the wall were attacked within three months in incidents believed to have been linked to plans for its removal.
It led to a security gate between the two sides being closed for the first time in 20 years.
The wall was erected in the mid-1980s at the same time as new family homes were built.
Community worker Rab McCallum, from the North Belfast Interface Network, said the majority of residents had been in favour of the wall being removed, despite the attacks.
"We kept dealing with concerns at every stage until people felt confident. Some of the homes that were attacked were keen for the process to move ahead," he said.
"Each area is different, but the residents here can now see things that they never saw before. It has improved their quality of life."
Mr McCallum added: "These people have taken a step and we are out to see whether there is a reward.
"Homes could be attacked tomorrow night; it could be a disaster. But this is a brave and bold step that the residents have taken and one that we would hope could push other people on."
Justice minister David Ford said: “I do not underestimate the fear felt by many people who live at or near interface areas. For some, these structures have been in place for so long now that they are accepted as part of the infrastructure.
"However, we know the damaging impact such structures have, including on the health and well-being and economic and social renewal in the areas they are located."
Jennifer Hawthorne from the Housing Executive described the dismantling of the wall as an "important moment" in its 45-year-old history.
Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister also welcomed the announcement and said residents on the Crumlin Road will now see there is nothing to feel apprehensive about.
In November, a Catholic man said his young family had been left shaken after a gang of men attacked their home at the interface with crowbars and hammers.
"It’s one thing having paint bombs, it’s another thing looking out your window and seeing grown men with balaclavas and hammers," he said at the time.
"They have to keep the wall until they come up with something."
Stormont's programme for government includes an objective of removing all peace walls by 2023.