Northern Ireland news

Barrier removal not a choice but an imperative

The completion of the removal of a peace wall on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Megan Fearon, Sinn Fein MLA

BUILDING a future free from sectarianism and which upholds the right of all sections of our community will require huge ambition, commitment and vision.

The Together Building a United Community policy framework gives practical expression to the Executive’s commitment to build a future that is integrated, shared and defined by hope and prosperity.

Central to this vision must be the transformation of the physical barriers, which have divided and limited community life.

Dismantling physical divisions as happened at the Ardoyne interface in north Belfast last week clearly signals there is a confidence across many communities to enjoy a future without permanent dividing walls.

Indeed, the efforts of the TASCIT community partnership, which includes the Ardoyne, Twaddell, Crumlin and Shankill areas, that led to the removal of the interface wall at Ardoyne in north Belfast serves as a story of hope and encouragement.

This milestone could not have been reached without the time, energy and commitment invested by the community. It shows clearly that communities are often ahead of government in meeting local needs and creating the conditions for removal barriers.

While progress has been made of course more can and needs to be done. That is why this Executive has set 2023 as the target date for the removal of all peace-walls.

This process should not be delayed. We must all work together, across communities, to create better educational, training and employment opportunities, improve access to essential services and deliver a better quality of life for all living in interface areas.

I am conscious that not everyone sees this target of 2023 for the removal of all barriers as helpful. However, removing barriers and transforming interfaces will take time.

This is helped when government departments have a target date, which focuses minds and targets resources to delivering this headline action.

The consent of communities, however, is central to any removal or modification process.

Removing and modifying the physical barriers that have perpetuated division and segregation among communities is no longer a choice but an imperative.

At a minimum we must all begin to envision a future that is without walls.

The removal and transformation of interface barriers will be a key indication of our journey to an integrated, shared and reconciled future.

The Executive will continue to support communities in their efforts to build a better future.

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