Bogside gates cut down
Bogside gates cut down

Angle grinders and saws were used to cut down so-called “peace gates” in Derry’s Bogside on Tuesday.

The cast iron gates were recently erected between Joseph Place and Fahan Street by British officials and the PSNI police.

The previous evening, a number of residents protested against the removals of the gates and signed a petition for their removal. The protest was supported by the Irish Republican Forum for Unity - an umbrella group made up of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Republican Network for Unity, and the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

“Peace gates” are normally used as an alternative to “peace walls” to prevent attacks across a sectarian interface.

However, in the strongly republican Bogside, many believe the PSNI erected the gates only to increase their control in the area.

While intended to be kept open during the day, Tony Taylor, of the Republican Netork for Unity, said that residents found that the entry had been sealed off on Tuesday.

“When one resident enquired about who the key-holders might be, he was told that only “responsible” residents could have a key,” he said. “He was told that he would not be receiving a key.”

He said that while there had been a problem with street drinking, an ‘open prison’ model wasn’t appropriate.

“Those who don’t have a key feel like second class residents,” he said.

“This area is, after all, a common and public space. The solution is not to punish residents and the public by denying access through a convenient route to and from the city centre.

“Many tourists and visitors also use this entry for convenience.”

The gates were erected following clashes in the area over the Apprentice Boys parade last month.

“It’s quite clear that closing this entry is an inconvenience to residents whilst it acts as a major control tool for the RUC/PSNI.

“The gates are a greater inconvenience than the problem they purport to fix.”

Resident Kathleen Brown said she was “hemmed in” by the gates.

“We were asked about this two years ago and heard nothing more about it. Then, all of a sudden, last week the gates appeared. I’ve lived here 41 years, all through the Troubles, and I never felt hemmed in before - but I do now,” she said.

Other residents, however, have said the gates have increased security.

Joseph Place resident Rhona Toland said the area has been quiet when the gates were installed.

“Usually we are tortured with anti-social behaviour and you don’t get to sleep until 3am because of the noise and the smashing of bottles; but with the gates they weren’t able to hang about there last weekend,” she said.

Sinn Fein councillor Patricia Logue said it was important that the gates were replaced as soon as possible.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News