Fifteen years after the peace agreement, Belfast remains walledThe Monde.fr | • Updated
By Alexandre Pouchard
Belfast, special envoy. whoever comes to Belfast, they are inevitable scars that slash neighborhoods of the capital of Northern Ireland. That stare streets, bristling with barbed son. Parks that cut through a big pile of metal. Mal-called "peace walls" separating Catholic and Protestant are ever present in the streets of Belfast, with their share of fences, gates, window bars, a school here, where a centersocial .
However, fifteen years ago, April 10, 1998, the "Good Friday Agreement", signed by the British government - along with the "unionists" Protestants - Catholics and Republicans, who want the attachment of Ireland North the Irish Republic, put an end to thirty years of civil war that has claimed more than 3,500 lives. And paved the way for the hope of a peaceful coexistence between the Protestant and Catholic communities in this province of 1.8 million people.
Fifteen years later, the walls are still there, at number 99, according to a recent statement of the organization Belfast Interface Project. Some of them have been built over the last decade, others have been enhanced a few meters. This is the case of the wall that darkens the courtyard behind the house of Stuart Tould in the Protestant enclave neighborhood Catholic Short Strand in east Belfast. The Wall, already composed of bricks and plates, was "completed" by a fence in 2003 toreach a total height of nine meters. "We regularly stones, bottles and firecrackers we fall over , regrets painter in search of employment . Especially during July parades. "
This summer, during which each community through the streets, exacerbating tensions and is therefore feared by all residents of the walls. Thus goes he to Tim (the name has been changed). His house is on the other side of Duncairn Avenue(west), which passes the Orange march of 12 July, which commemorates the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic Jacques II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 . A brick wall and plate rises at the end of his little court.Not enough, according to a devout Catholic, whose house is lined with icons of the Virgin Mary. "Last summer, they threw stones at night. This is very dangerous, the wall must remain , it is thanks to him that we are safe. "
"BOTH PRISON AND PROTECTION"
These are episodes like this, or like the riots that erupted after the removal of the Union Jack from the pediment of the town hall of Belfast in January, which feed among the residents "need" walls. Catholics and Protestants share the feeling of protection provided by these, and ideally postponed to a distant future, a city without walls. "It is both a prison and a protection" , says Stuart Tould. " Each stone's throw can revive violence " , regrets MacGabhann Sean , a native of Catholic Short Strand area.
It is understandable when the result of a study by the University of Ulster (PDF),published in September 2012, that only 14% of the residents with a "peace wall" want it to be destroyed in the near future.
"DELETE PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS"
"It is only by removing the fear factor that can happen to destroy these walls" , says John McQuillan , Belfast Interface Project. This organization intends neutral"regenerate" the territories where the walls rise by social work improving the quality of life. "In these areas, the standard of living today is often the same as thirty years ago , says Mr. McQuillan. plays social misery for many in the current situation and the feelings of everyone. " It is only the fighter, he assures, "the psychological barriers fall, and after them, physical barriers " .
The partitioning of communities - by neighborhoods, schools (5% of them are only confession mixed) by club sports - obviously not only promotes these developments. "Only the work is not segregated, unlike the rest of social life , says Neil Jarman, director of the Institute for Conflict Research . But things have improved: the riots of the Union Jack remained confined to a few districts when they are extended to the entire city, would Are there ten years. "
This is partly the result of the work of associations working for many years tostrengthen community relations. The International Fund for Ireland, created twenty-five years and funded European and American in particular, has launched in 2012a program whose ultimate goal is the destruction of some walls. But it starts with a phase of consultation. "We want people to feel confident , says Billy Gamble, a member of the board of the organization. We initiated discussions very positive about what would be a future without walls., but we can not go faster than the communities themselves. they alone must decide and mark the rhythm. "
"This is a very slow process , confirms Jonny Byrne , co-author of the study from the University of Ulster. separations have been there so long that they have created a 'natural environment' for the inhabitants. Whether this would environment without walls is difficult of imagine and change is scary. "
A REFERENDUM "WITHIN SIX OR SEVEN YEARS"
Political parties urged to act primarily on this issue - including the inhabitants of the rest of Northern Ireland, who abhor the "wall of shame" tainting the reputation of the province - are measured. "Everyone would like to see the walls being slaughtered, of course , assures Peter Weir, DUP MP Unionist Party in Northern Ireland Assembly. But this requires the support of communities, residents must feelcomfortable with this decision if it is taken. "
Unless events such as the crisis of the Union Jack, is reviving tensions. Sinn Féin retains its ultimate goal of integrating Northern Ireland in the Irish Republic. The old window policy of the IRA, which has now laid down their arms, now focusing toachieve its goals on the organization of a referendum on self-determination, authorized by the Good Friday Agreement. This position is also based on demographic change underway in Northern Ireland according to the latest census figures in December, the proportion of Protestants (mostly unionists) fell for the first time below 50% with 48%. Catholics, they represent 45% of the population ."We hope that [vote] is organized by six or seven years , announced Alex Maskey, a member of Sinn Féin. opinion We have a comprehensive and mature who would not let intimidate by threats of violence. Talk about anything before. "