Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed the publication of a report by Ulster University on attitudes to peace walls.
The survey, carried out earlier this year, shows a hardening of attitudes among residents living in the shadow of peace walls towards their eventual removal. Since the previous survey in 2012, 35% of respondents said they would like the peace walls to come down some time in the future – this is down from 44% of respondents in 2012.
David Ford said:
"Tensions around flags, emblems and parading have undoubtedly contributed to current attitudes around the removal of peace walls. However, I welcome the fact that engagement and dialogue around the future of these structures has been building. Increasing the level of interaction is vital to improving community relations and building confidence in a future without walls. There needs to be a greater emphasis on bringing people living at interfaces together. They have more in common than differences."
David Ford added:
"My Department is committed to working with all stakeholders to deliver a programme for change at interfaces. The "Fresh Start" paper has ear-marked £60m for the shared future agenda, including contributing to the conditions that will allow the removal of peace walls. Sustained long term funding is essential to address the issues that impact on interface communities and I hope that Fresh Start can now deliver that funding."
Ulster University's Dr Jonny Byrne said:
"This is a combination of six months of research by Ulster University and the results provide an insight into the views and experiences of those most affected by the target date of 2023. Clearly, there is a degree of anxiety and trepidation about the impact of removing peace walls. Policy makers and service providers therefore need to develop bespoke interventions across the communities to ensure that all of the unique concerns are addressed."
There are currently 52 interface structures across Northern Ireland separating Protestant and Catholic areas located in Belfast, Portadown, Lurgan and Derry~Londonderry.