In 2013, the Northern Ireland Executive’s Together: Building a United Community (TBUC) strategy committed the Executive to a 10-year programme to ‘reduce, and remove by 2023, all interface barriers’ and to creating an Interface Barrier Support Package to enable this. Through TBUC, the Executive set out its view that the elimination of barriers was ‘necessary in progressing as a community and facilitating the reconciliation that has been prevented for so long through division.’ Removing interface barriers was established as a central element in underpinning peace.
The Executive promised that action would take place at governmental level “to ensure that there is an appropriate level of support and engagement within relevant government Departments, within key statutory agencies, and in the police and other agencies responsible for safety and security” and through bespoke local approaches “based on the need for inclusivity, involving community representatives and local residents, and recognising the need to take account of the local context.” According to the strategy, “Local communities around the interface will be encouraged to come together and decide if they want to be part of this programme. If there is agreement to become part of the programme then the area immediately surrounding the barrier will be able to avail of a range of support and help over a 10-year period, provided agreed targets are met throughout the period.” However, ‘local communities’ has been a term used to cover a cohort of people living in close proximity to peace walls as a single unitary group when the reality is unlikely to be the case. Because of this, it is important to highlight the socio-demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the areas designated as proximate to the peace walls. In addition, although interventions on the peace walls, by way of various programmes and activity, was initiated in the absence of an interrogation of any baseline data (drawn from the 2011 Census), the use of such data now is essential in order to develop bespoke programmes of work and to be able to monitor and track any changes which might occur and so a project was developed through the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) to do this.
Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Duncan Morrow, Jonny Byrne, Michael Rosato and Sally Cook
Institute for Social Sciences, University of Ulster, November 2017