Politicians on all sides begin planning for a shared future in Northern Ireland

A peace wall in Belfast

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness announced on Thursday May 9 that they anticipate all the peace walls in Northern Ireland to be taken down over the next decade.

RTE reports that the removal of the peace walls in Northern Ireland is but a small piece of a what politicians have called “the most ambitious plans ever to build a shared future for Northern Ireland.”

In the new plan, a united youth program is also included in which 10,000 unemployed and not in education people between the ages of 16 and 24 would be given a one-year work placement with pay.

Robinson and McGuinness also announced the creation of a cross-party group to be led by an independent chairperson that will work together in hopes of easing sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland. 

Next week, politicians from all parties have been invited to Cardiff, Wales to further discuss more plans to implement a shared future in Northern Ireland.

Also invited to the Cardiff talks are the PSNI and academics from the University of Ulster, said The Belfast Telegraph.

The meetings follow a period of heightened criminal activity in the winter in Belfast after a new flag resolution was passed which limits the flying of the Union Jack over Belfast city hall to several designated days annually.

Reportedly, security chiefs are also worried about violence occurring in upcoming disputed parades that run through Catholic and Protestant interface areas in the North.

The PSNI said they would be meeting with key stakeholders in Cardiff to discuss issues about Belfast.

A statement from the PSNI said, "The attendee list has not yet been finalized. As a Police Service, we believe it is important that we listen to the views expressed by our stakeholders and the community. We also want to ensure constructive lines of engagement are established and remain open.”

A spokesman for the Progressive Unionist Party, the political wing of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, confirmed they had been invited to attend, but that no decision had been made.

The spokesman said, "There is a lot of skepticism about what can be achieved in such a short space of time, but it is better than doing nothing. Therefore, I think the space needs to be given for the initiative to take place."