Belfast's ugly peace walls are better left standing - US funding for effort to take them down is misguided
By: Niall O'Dowd | Published Thursday, January 19, 2012, 11:00 AM | Updated Sunday, August 4, 2013, 5:53 AM
|Peace wall, Belfast|
The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) has allocated $3.8 million to take down the peace walls in Northern Ireland.
The IFI money comes mainly from American taxpayers and this use of their hard-earned dollars makes me wonder what planet they are living on.
Northern Ireland is still decades away from being a totally normal society.
Yes, it is horrific that walls still have to be erected between warring communities, but hardly surprising.
Just last week a young Catholic man was almost murdered when he was beaten and chased when he found himself in a Protestant neighborhood.
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The peace walls serve a real purpose, dire though they might look and seem.
Northern Ireland has come a very long way. There are almost no deaths now attributed to The Troubles. A civil society is slowly growing up as well as a cross community government.
Those are magnificent achievements and the peace walls have played their part, ugly as it may seem.
Anyone who has spent time in Belfast knows how closely many of the warring communities live in close proximity to one another, especially in Belfast.
A wrong turn and you can find yourself, like the young Catholic man last week in hostile territory indeed.
On many of my visits there I relied on the graffiti and color of the curbstones, red white and blue in Protestant areas, to warn me if I had strayed.
The peace walls also protect during the marching season when the annual rush of blood to the head among Protestant marchers occurs and violence spikes.
Some day in the future the walls will come down but it it not imminent.
Which is why this is a waste of American taxpayer's money in my opinion.
The intent to do good is very clear and should not be denigrated.
But it clashes with the still sad reality in my opinion.
Sectarian killings could increase and tensions rise if the walls come down prematurely.
IFI money far better spent on cross community projects that will breed understanding and eventually friendship for the next generation.