Dr Jonny Byrne, Prof Cathy Gormley-Heenan and Dr Duncan Morrow (Ulster): In May 2013, the Northern Ireland Executive published a new community relations strategy document, ‘Together: Building a United Community’, which set itself the ambitious target of removing ALL interface barriers (peace walls) by 2023. Peace walls and interface barriers designed to secure communities through physical separation have been a feature of the physical, political and psychological landscape of Northern Ireland since 1969. They have long been seen as symbols of division and polarisation with enormous social and economic impact at local, city and regional level. This presentation will draw on the findings from a recently completed (September, 2015) ESRC funded research award, which involved a partnership between Ulster University and the Department of Justice that looked at the policy challenges around meeting such a target. The independently funded research, titled ‘Public Policy and Peace Walls’ enabled the researchers to act as a ‘critical friend’, as formative evaluators of a current policy implementation process, and as a provider of evidence-based research. Drawing on this work, this presentation will consider the numerous policy approaches to framing the issue of peace walls, and present new and innovative methods of interpreting the political and community narratives around what the walls represent in a post-conflict society. Finally, drawing from up-to-date survey data, the research team will provide a current assessment of the Executive’s attempts to meet the 2023 target.
This seminar took place on 7 October 2015.