Irish Republican News · June 4, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
New ‘peace line’ divides school

A 25ft-high security fence is to be built inside the grounds of an integrated primary school to protect nearby homes from sectarian attacks.

In many interface areas across Belfast, the two communities are separated by giant walls dubbed ‘peace lines’ by British civil servants. The new ‘peace line’ is to be erected inside the existing perimeter fence of Hazelwood school in north Belfast.

The fence is being built to prevent future attacks on Catholic houses in the Old Throne Park area in Whitewell, a well-known interface.

Last summer unionists torched the home of a mother and her 12-week-old daughter. The pair were asleep when the arsonists struck.

Other Catholic homes were targeted by a 40-strong unionist mob who crossed through the school’s grounds before launching their attack.

Observers say it is ironic that a fence is being erected to separate Catholic and Protestant communities within the grounds of a school designed to bring different traditions together.

Sinn Féin’ Martin McGuinness said sectarianism could only be defeated by people in the political arena giving proper leadership.

Mr McGuinness suggested that the north’s politicians should be able to work together to dismantle the walls which physically divide unionist and nationalist neighbourhoods.

He said he hoped the leadership he was providing with First Minister Ian Paisley was giving the right example to a society moving away from conflict and sectarianism.

In its charter for unionist engagement, the party has outlined how it would protect the rights of all sections of society in a new Ireland and sets out how it will engage unionists and other groups about its strategy.

This document suggests a new agreed Irish constitution based on the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary which would be endorsed by the people and a charter of rights.

Mr McGuinness told an audience at Stormont that he believed the ‘new era of power sharing’ had the potential to help both communities to put decades of conflict and division behind them.

He acknowledged republicans had contributed to the hurt that existed in society. However, the MP said other sections of society also needed to share responsibility.

He said that “in the course of the last while” Ian Paisley has come out very strongly against racism and sectarianism.

“This provides a very solid foundation stone for us to move forward to give leadership to all of the people we represent,” he said.

He said that in recent times “the amount of interconnections that are taking place at interface areas in Belfast and other parts of the north... they are at their highest now than we have ever seen in the past.

“There are tremendous people within the Protestant/unionist community engaging on a consistent basis with people within the nationalist/ republican community to ensure that we defuse dangerous situations. They are the real heroes.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News