Taking down walls not popular in interface areas…

Interesting shared line from former combatants William Plum Smyth and Spike Murray, who agree that the peace walls hastily erected in the early part of the troubles should be retained. And it’s a feeling replicated amongst ordinary on both sides of barriers that have remained in place for well over 40 years now…

Patsy Canavan a resident of Bombay Street…

“It’s grand as long as the peace line stays up, but I wouldn’t like to see it coming down – it’s far too early,” she said. “I wouldn’t feel safe. In fact, I would like to see it higher up instead of taken down. A golf ball came over it about a month ago, and in the summer you can get stones and bottles thrown over – not as much as before but they still come over. You have to be a wee bit careful when kids are out playing. We just want peace lines kept up because we can feel safer, and I’m sure the other people on the other side wouldn’t want to see them down either.”

HOwever Murray notes that much of the trouble engendered at the interface is far from political these days:

“There have been a number of attacks in this area – orchestrated by both sides, I have to say, not just one side. It’s mostly young people, and when you look at their background, they’re from broken families, broken homes. A lot of it is antisocial, it’s not political.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • On the other hand, you can’t lob a golf ball over a wall that isn’t there. Building sites learned that putting up a palisade actually invited trespassing, because it made the other side mysterious. Now we see increasingly that hoardings have viewports in them so that curious youngsters don’t have to climb them to see what’s going on. A peace wall doesn’t protect adults from unruly youths – it protects unruly youths from adults. They can’t chase you if there’s a wall in the way.

  • Alone and Easy Target

    You have institutional divisions to prop up the country so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that divisions (and by extension walls) exist in reality.

  • BarneyT

    It’s convenient to call for the removal of the dividers when you have no experience of the life that triggered such as drastic measure in the first place and indeed if there is no risk presented to you by their removal. I fall into that category. The only barricades I came up against in South Armagh were those laid by the authorities to prevent cross border access and entry into the local GAA team if you did not toe the official SF party line…or were seen to question it.

    My natural reaction is to remove these “obstacles” as the current climate surely will determine that their need has reduced. It’s also easy to say that the respective communities must be respectful of the law and each other and if they don’t, the might of the police and law courts should come to bear.

    What if they are removed and a KKK style lynch mob descends on the other community and we’re left with another brutal tragedy. Whilst these incidents may prove unlikely or perhaps rare, someone in the short term will suffer…i.e. someone on that interface. Any dismantlement must be driven from those that are directly divided as they are most qualified and also at most risk. That is where the real bravery should come from, not from the likes of me in South Armagh or someone sitting comfortably in South Belfast

  • nilehenri

    incredibly poor post mick…

  • Mick Fealty

    How so?

  • BarneyT

    If these walls have become a safety blanket for those on one or either side, that is worth commenting on as it sets a course for prolonged societal fragmentation.

    We should all aim to remove these walls and promote co-existence, however clearly the climate to achieve that is a long way off.

  • tacapall

    “We should all aim to remove these walls and promote co-existence, however clearly the climate to achieve that is a long way off”

    Same old faces same old stories, its unsurprising that those who can turn the violence off and on, are those that are most vocal in not wanting the dividing walls being removed. Once former paramilitaries, now successful business owners and landlords, who also happen to receive financial remunerations from the various government funded initiatives tackling division, integration and anti social behaviour. These people have a vested interest in ensuring the status quo because its all about money money money.

    “We need a strategic long-term plan to regenerate these areas. Reinvigorating the communities is the best way to build confidence. We’re saying: do it as quick as possible, but you can’t put a timeline on it.”

    Regeneration and reinvigorating to these people just means giving them more money and then they’ll use their influences to make it safe for the dividing walls come down.

  • nilehenri

    @mick, the former combatant’s comments are neither interesting nor anything other than what we expected from them.
    mr. murray fails to see the irony in his comments, does he also fail to see the correlation between proximity to the walls and poverty?
    in fairness you made a poor choice of source material, the piece in the independent makes for excruciating reading, being both depressing and insipid.
    the walls are just another example of a small minority holding the majority to ransom in ulster because they are happy to exist in a fetid status quo. the should be coming down, and we shouldn’t be talking about twenty years time frames either.
    love thy nighbour, but hate his golf ball.

  • tacapall

    “mr. murray fails to see the irony in his comments, does he also fail to see the correlation between proximity to the walls and poverty”

    I think he see’s it quite clearly, he is on a lucrative little earner, just like his counterparts on the other side like Plum Smith, the people they represent even have their own wee tourist guide industry running, where trusted minions charge x amount to groups of tourists for chaperoning them on their travels around the once troubled hotspots. Some walls will never come down, they are now classed like listed buildings, places of historical interest. Does anyone believe for a second that any joe blogg can become a tourist guide on the Falls or Shankill Roads.

    While people like Spike Murray and Plum Smith are involved in the decision making or representing local opinion over the future of these peace walls it will be nothing more than a talking shop of puppets, who’s strings will be pulled in order to attain government grants for the chosen few within their respective communities. These individuals will get richer while the local population will be no better off.

  • aquifer

    Are we missing that as our segregated schools get bigger, that they will develop larger single identity areas around them?

    Walls are more obvious, but a less effective divider.

  • Barnshee

    The walls are essential for the people living cheek by jowl with them. They are here to stay for an indefinite period and may indeed continue to multiply where people feel the need

  • Little James

    tapacall – 6.56pm 8 May

    Spot on analysis, but something you will never hear about in the main stream media. The money that is “invested” into these areas will be hoovered up by Sean “Spike” Murray and his cohorts, the people in the areas will still suffer the same plights they have always suffered but they might have somewhere new to go and play pool. It’s quite laughable that Sean Murray is now some sort of respectable community leader. Him and his Loyalist counterparts play nice in interface areas while the money is still there, and they continue to cream it.