Peace Walls in Northern Ireland - Movements For Removal or Awareness
To date, two Peace Walls have been removed in Northern Ireland. In 2016, the Crumlin Road Peace Wall, which was under the jurisdiction of the Housing Executive, was the first one removed.
In September 2017, the International Fund for Ireland's Peace Walls Programme backed the removal of a three-meter-high wall in western Belfast. Additionally, the International Fund For Ireland has spent more than £4 million on projects in Belfast and Derry, all with the ultimate goal of removing Peace Walls.
After extensive searching, we did not find any organizations that have tried to raise, or were currently raising, money to drive awareness and understanding specifically between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Outside of the Peace Walls Programme, we did not find other organizations working on any awareness issues regarding the walls, religion-based or otherwise. Furthermore, the Programme's movement is secular in nature, using the terms, “Nationalist,” and “Unionist.”
Peace Wall Removal efforts
The Peace Wall Programme was founded in 2012 by the International Fund for Ireland. The Programme has continuing efforts to remove Peace Walls in Northern Ireland, and in 2017 successfully removed one wall in western Belfast. The wall, at Springfield Road and Springhill Avenue, stood three meters high and had originally been built in 1989.
That wall was the second Peace Wall to ever come down. In 2016, the Crumlin Road Peace Wall, which was under the jurisdiction of the Housing Executive, was the first one removed. To date, those are the only two Peace Walls that have been fully removed.
While the Programme's ultimate goal is the removal of Peace Walls, the organization understands the need for residents to desire, and feel comfortable with, the removal. The Programme describes itself as being, “aimed at developing and delivering a range of confidence and relationship building interventions within and between interface communities to help residents reach a position where they feel it is safe and appropriate to proceed with the removal of Peace Walls in their area.”
As of July 2017, The International Fund For Ireland has spent more than £4 million on projects in Belfast and Derry, all with the ultimate goal of removing Peace Walls. One such project in Belfast is being carried out in the area surrounding Greater Whitewell Community Surgery. Riots still occur in the area, and wall removal has been met with resistance. So far, the greatest success to come of the Greater Whitewell project has been the training of 12 security personnel, six Unionists and six Nationalists. The plan is for these men to steward community events that are held in the area. None of the men had worked with someone from the "opposite tradition," before, and are now doing so willingly.
According to The Irish Times, the Northern Ireland government has plans to remove all 116 Peace Walls by 2023. This end date is now in question, as critics point out that 21 of the structures were not taken into consideration when the 2023 deadline was set. The article further states that 74 Peace Walls are under the jurisdiction of either the Department of Justice or the Housing Executive.
Additionally, there is disagreement over how many Peace Walls actually exist, and who controls them. In February 2016, The Belfast Telegraph reported that there were only 109 Peace Walls, with 71 under the government's jurisdiction. A reported 38 walls are privately owned, or controlled by a non-government public agency. A lack of a clear understanding of what structures are in fact Peace Walls, and who has jurisdiction over them, could prove to be a roadblock in the removal process.
Awareness and Understanding Between Catholics and Protestants
We first searched reputable media sites, first in Northern Ireland and then globally, and could find no evidence of an organization raising money specifically to drive awareness between Catholics and Protestants regarding the Peace Walls. A broader, more general search also did not have any results. Outside of government efforts, the only agency we found that is funding Peace Wall efforts at this time is the International Fund for Ireland, through their Peace Wall Programme. The Fund’s language is secular in nature, and uses the terms, “Nationalist” and “Unionist.”
A 2015 survey, Public Attitudes to Peace Walls, lends insight into Catholic and Protestant views of Peace Wall removal. While we typically do not consult sources older than two years, we felt the survey results would still be relevant and of interest to you.
The survey was conducted by Ulster University, in communities where Peace Walls are present. When asked if they knew much about the government's campaign to remove all walls by 2023, 53% of Protestants and 45% of Catholics said they knew, "nothing at all." Furthermore, 52% of Protestants and 25% of Catholics said there had been "no benefit," to the peace process efforts. Lastly, 46% of Protestants and 42% of Catholics said they, "never," interacted with the community on the other side of the wall.
In conclusion, the International Fund for Ireland's Peace Walls Programme is working to facilitate relationship building measures, with the goal of having communities feel safe about Peace Wall removal. To date, the Programme has funded the removal of one wall.
The Northern Ireland government has a goal of removing all walls by 2023. Roadblocks to wall removal include disagreements over how many Peace Walls actually exist, and who has jurisdiction over them. The Ulster University survey revealed that the government could be doing more to make the public aware of their wall removal campaign.
We were unable to find any organization that has tried to raise money specifically to drive awareness and understanding between Catholics and Protestants regarding the Peace Walls in Northern Ireland. The Peace Walls Programme uses the secular terms, “Nationalist” and “Unionist.” Best of luck with your book!