FactCheckNI was recently contacted by a curious tourist, who went on a black taxi tour of the Shankill and Falls Road neighbourhoods.
During his visit, he was informed by his driver that the interface gates on the “peace lines” close at 6pm every evening, but locals contradictorily told him that the gates no longer shut in the evening.
The peace lines have been a part of the Northern Ireland landscape since 1969, when first built by the British army, following the outbreak of conflict, to manage inter-communal conflict between Catholic- and Protestant-populated areas. They were intended to be a temporary measure of control, but since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, only one has been removed, with 109 remaining.
Who is responsible for the peace walls?
As the above Belfast Telegraph article states, the Department of Justice own 51 and the Housing Executive own 20. The rest are owned privately or by various public agencies.
FactCheckNI determined that in the Shankill and Falls areas, the walls are owned by the Department of Justice. The department added: “The Department of Justice is responsible for ensuring that interface gates are opened and closed at five locations around the general Falls and Shankill areas.”
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice employs a contractor to open and close the gates at four locations:
- North Howard Street: Vehicular and pedestrian gates open Monday to Saturday between 0630 hrs and 1830 hrs; the gates are closed on Sundays
- Northumberland Street: Vehicular and pedestrian gates open Monday to Saturday between 0630 hrs and 1830 hrs, and on Sunday between 1000 hrs and 1500 hrs
- Townsend Street: Vehicular and pedestrian gates open on Mondays to Thursdays between 0700 hrs and 1730 hrs, and on Fridays between 0700 hrs to 1800 hrs; the gates are closed on Saturday and Sunday
- Workman Avenue: Pedestrian gate open daily between 0700 hrs and 2100 hrs
At the first three locations, a formal process is in development in order to consider requests to extensions to the opening times.
Police Service of Northern Ireland
The PSNI are responsible for the opening and closing of one gate in the Shankill and Walls area. At Lanark Way, vehicular and pedestrian gates open daily between 0700 hrs and 2230 hrs. The PSNI close and open these gates remotely, via an automated mechanism.