A NORTHERN Irish 'peace wall' has been demolished after 30 years of dividing communities in Belfast.
The wall, on the Crumlin Road in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, stood for three decades before contractors tore it down yesterday.
It was erected in the mid-1980s, designed to give "protection to residents in the interface of the area" during the Troubles.
But the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) made the move yesterday to demolish the 8ft high structure, which will be replaced by railings and decorative panels.
The decision to take down the wall was led by the local community, who were seen taking bricks from the wall home with them.
"This is really bucking a trend," Fr Gary Donegan, rector of the Holy Cross Church that overlooks the wall, told The Irish Post.
"The area is synonymous with so much of the pain and conflict that occurred during the Troubles so if it happened here, it can happen anywhere."
Ardoyne, a historically Catholic working-class area, was a hotspot for clashes between opposing communities during the Troubles.
The area was deemed a “no-go” zone by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary at the peak of the Troubles in the 1980s because of the ongoing violence.
“This is a brave and a bold step taken by residents who have seen more than their fair share of the conflict yet have an eye on the future and a better way of life for themselves and their families," said Rabb McCallum, of the Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities In Transition (TASCIT) group.
“Our role has been to enable the community to take this positive step and remove this physical and psychological barrier 30 years after it was first erected.”
The peace wall was built on what is considered “one of the most contentious interfaces” in the North of Ireland at a time when sectarian murders and violence were rife in the Belfast suburb.
There are estimated to be 110 peace walls remaining in the North of Ireland – and Stormont’s Programme for Government has committed to removing them all by 2023.