McGuinness calls for joint move against 'peace walls'

The North’s politicians should be able to work together to dismantle the walls which physically divide loyalist and republican neighbourhoods in Belfast, Martin McGuinness insisted today.

As his party Sinn Féin launched a new document at Stormont on how it will engage with the unionist community, the Stormont Deputy First Minister hoped the leadership he was providing with the First Minister Rev Ian Paisley was giving the right example to a society moving away from conflict and sectarianism.

And he also dismissed some unionists’ claims that in reaching out to their community Sinn Fein should drop its goal of achieving a united Ireland.

The Sinn Fein MP said: “I think as a result of the work we are engaged in in this Assembly and the work that is being engaged in on the streets that it is an eminently achievable objective to see the peace walls in Belfast go down.

“But I think it will be a tremendous job of work to bring that about.

“I will be engaging with both communities and with others who have an interest in society to see how that project can be realised because it is, as we all know given the length of these peace walls, a massive challenge to all of us.”

The Mid Ulster MP was commenting a week after a school which educates Catholic and Protestant pupils in north Belfast was told a 25 foot wall will be erected on its grounds to prevent youths from using the site to launch sectarian attacks.

The Council for Integrated Education said the Northern Ireland office decision to erect a peace line in Hazelwood Integrated Primary School had come as a bolt out of the blue.

The number of concrete, iron and steel peace lines separating loyalist and nationalist communities have risen from 18 in the early 1990s to around 40 today and stretch around 13 miles.

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