Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Belfast Peace Lines

The Peace Lines are a series of separation barriers ranging in length from a few hundred yards to over three miles (5 km), separating Catholic and Protestants neighbourhoods in Belfast in Northern Ireland. The stated purpose of the barriers is to minimize intercommunal sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics.

The barriers themselves consist of iron, brick, and steel walls up to 25 feet (7.6 m) high, topped with metal netting, or simply a white line painted on the ground similar to a road marking. Some have gates in them occasionally manned by police, which allow passage by day, and which are closed at night.

The first barriers were constructed in the early 1970s, following the outbreak of "The Troubles". There were built as temporary structures because they were indeed meant to be temporary, lasting only six months, but due to their effective nature they have become more permanent, wider and longer. Originally few in number, they have multiplied over the years, from 18 in the early 1990s to 40 today; in total they stretch over 13 miles (21 km). Most are located in Belfast.

The most prominent barriers in the past few years separates the mainly Catholic Short Strand and the mainly Protestant Cluan Place areas of East Belfast, The Protestant Fountain and Catholic Bogside areas of Derry and also the predominantly nationalist Falls Road and unionist Shankill Road areas in West Belfast.

In 2008 a public discussion began about how and when the barriers could be removed. Many of the residents who live in the communities beside the peace lines have expressed their anger at any suggestion that they will be taken down.

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