Tuesday, 18 August 2009

'Peace' Walls??

I have never really been a fan of the term ‘peace walls’, or of the term ‘interface community’.

I don’t think either of them properly reflect, either the walls themselves or the community that the walls are inflicted upon.

The reason I write about this topic today is because earlier on I received a call from the East Belfast Herald; they wanted me to respond to something that Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long had said on Radio Ulster over the weekend. I never heard the interview with Naomi but the journalist who called informed me that she had once again advocated the removal of the so called ‘peace walls’ but on this occasion the rationale was because there had been such a unified community spirit at the Tall Ships Festival.

I’m not so sure I agree.
I hope I'm not taking Naomi's quote out of context, after all it was conveyed to me second hand. Nevertheless, there is an attitude and argument that exists out there, that these walls should just be torn town in the morning.

Obviously as an Irish Republican I want to see these walls torn down, my politics and ideology compels me to help create an Ireland where, to quote the Proclamation of Irish Freedom, “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

I respect Naomi’s and others view that the walls can be removed, like I said I too want to see that happen. It is a sorry state of affairs when in 2009 the walls surrounding my own community in the Short Strand have actually gotten higher; higher than when I was a young child and the Irish Republican Army was engaging in combat on the streets of this community, higher than when Loyalist Paramilitaries, in collusion with Crown Forces stalked the streets of this community and higher than when British Direct Rule was inflicted on the north, prior to the days of an all-party Assembly.

Physical walls are not the primary block to progress, Britain has been building walls in Ireland for centuries now, but not just ones of brick and stone. Like the quote from the Proclamation implies, Britain has carefully fostered walls of division and prejudice between, not just people here in Ireland but across the globe. Those same walls must be smashed in order to create the conditions where we collectively can remove the physical barriers that surround us.

I live in the Short Strand, a so called ‘interface community’, I want to see the walls that encircle my community come down, I want a shared and equal Ireland based on the ideal embodied in our own national flag. This won’t happen overnight and it certainly won’t happen as a result of the Tall Ships Festival, however good it was!

Politicians can only lead, and I think in area’s like east Belfast many of us are doing our level best, alongside community and church representatives and some of the statutory agencies. Ultimately though it will be the people who decide on whether or not these walls are removed, it shouldn’t be left to us.

I can indeed see a time when the walls separating communities throughout Belfast and beyond are no longer there, I think a lot of measured, mature and most often, quiet work goes on every single day in ensuring that we move ahead.

We cannot afford however to be tokenistic in this endeavour; we must ensure that people are ready, comfortable and above all safe in their own homes. We must take our lead from them and ensure that what we do helps us all smash down the carefully fostered divisions so meticulously and cynically constructed over generations by those who wished to keep us apart, for their own selfish interests.

I believe together we can do it and I know for certain that as an Irish Republican it is something I am firmly committed to achieving; so let’s continue our work and let’s make sure we achieve it for the benefit of everyone.

As we say in Irish:

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile!!


  1. Well said comrade.

  2. Naomi didn't say anything of the sort, regardless of what the East Belfast Herald reported. She, as Alliance OFMDFM spokesman, said that OFMDFM needed to do more to bring about a society where peace walls were no longer necessary. The interview for Seven FM in Ballymena was based on this press release. I think that there is little in the press release which is unreasonable or disagreeable

  3. I take your points, and go raibh maith agat for your contribution.

    I tried my best to be as cautious as possible when writing the piece, while recognising that the specifics of what Naomi may or may not have said (I was told it was an interview for Radio Ulster just so you know) didn't really really matter, that attitude that was being discussed did exist out there. I hope this particular blog piece dealt with that in an honest way.

    But again thanks for your contribution and feel free to add to the debate!

    Beir Bua!!