Behind the rhetoric of a transformed Belfast lies the nasty reality of over 70 peacewalls, criss-crossing the city and dividing working class communities.
That legacy of the past serves as a reminder of how far Belfast has yet to travel before it can really be said to be at peace.
In his recent play, Christening, playwright Pearse Elliott conjectured that it would take a century — a full one hundred years — before those who had been enemies would become allies.
In similar vein, the One City Conference in Belfast earlier this year was told by Catalan speaker Antonio Hermosilla that it’s only been within the past decade, 60 years after the bloody Spanish civil war, that Barcelona has been able to confront the ghosts of its divided past.
Healing the wounds of the city of Belfast therefore is not going to be an overnight phenomenon.
And yet, it’s fair to ask why so little progress has been made in dismantling the ‘peacewalls’ 17 years after the IRA and loyalist ceasefires.
Indeed, more peacewalls have gone up at the so-called interfaces since the peace process began, hitting a new low with the division of Alexander Park in North Belfast.
Despite progress on all fronts, therefore, the peacelines remain the elephant in the room during any discussion of the peace process.
This week, however, South Belfast politician Tom Ekin of the Alliance Party will address this issue head-on. At tonight’s (Thursday) meeting of full Council, Alderman Ekin will propose a motion to ‘move towards…removal’ of the peacewalls.
“These walls performed a necessary security purpose in the past in the several interface areas of the city but now serve to increase alienation and to inhibit regeneration and development of those very same areas,” states the motion tabled by the Alliance man.
While stating that the needs and wishes of those residents living in the shadow of the peacewalls must be paramount in any strategy to remove these scars on our civic landscape, Alderman Ekin has started a debate — and a process of wound-healing — which is long overdue.