There are many walls in Belfast which physically separate Protestant neighborhoods from Catholic ones. Some are fences that you can see through, while others are made of bricks and steel. Many have clearly been reinforced over time: a cinderblock wall topped with corrugated iron, then topped with razor wire, stretching up towards the sky. Many of the walls in Northern Ireland went up in the 1970s and ‘80s at the height of what’s become known as “The Troubles.” Decades later, almost all of the walls remain standing. They cut across communities like monuments to the conflict, etched into the physical landscape. Taking them down isn’t going to be easy.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman, Mars goody. Being a historic day, dormant after two years of talks and after a generation of bloodshed and decades division and acrimony. A new era of peace great and nineteen million, be eight political leaders in Northern Ireland. It signed a peace agreement, they It would end the sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants who'd. Fighting each other for decades at the root of the conflict was the discussion of whether Northern Ireland should reunite with the rest of Ireland or whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom. That's got Gurion he's the creator of the far from home broadcast. Most Catholics were NASH, lists, meaning they wanted to govern themselves as part of a United Ireland, most protestant, We're loyalists also called unionists who felt the stronger allegiance to the british crown paramilitaries.
Both sides had carried out, kidnappings, bombings and assassinations. More than three thousand people had died, but the peace the cord aim to end that violence- and I look forward equally to a new era of friendship and reconciliation- between unionism nationalists, in which each tradition can learn truly the value of the other. That was more than twenty years ago and while the political, cohesion in Northern Ireland is certainly better. Today, it's hard to say that French then reconciliation are the norm. Northern Ireland remains divided in some cases, quite literally so on. We can see that while the big brick So here we have a physical interferes that separates the community's okay. This is even Mclaughlin he's
the lower shank ill Community Association, which works to improve conditions in his neighborhood. He took me on a tour of Belfast. Northern Ireland's capital city, where he lives and works of all aware at nice, got the million backward the closures exactly amended Breton. You have protestant community only laughed and you have a Catholic. No you're right. There are so many walls like this in Belfast, which physically separate protestant neighborhoods from catholic ones He showed me short walls and tall laws. Some are more like fences, that you could see through. While others are made a bricks and steal many have clearly. Reinforced over time, a cinder block wall TAT with corrugated iron, topped with razor wire stretching up towards the sky. Here we have the protestant Committee on the left, behind the security,
there is even a war right near eons house. So I live here is where you grew up. Could we perhaps get out near a moment? It's a tight. Neighbourhood of modest brick homes. Two blocks away, the street dead ends at a combination, wall and fence. This thirty feet tall explains its been ever since nineteen seventy two and he was eleven years old. So do you remember when the swollen up, like you, a clear memories of when they were building it. What do you do you remember? Well, I remember that you had almost twenty four hour constant now a terrier police presence and they streets, because at that time, the opportunity to engage in physical violence presented it of every day and every night, because it was no physical by air between people. So that's why the things were created. The first sentence: it was designed to prevent physics
their action in Northern Ireland. There seems to be a euphemism for everything, the walls or called peace lines than Perhaps they cut through or called interface areas, the period when many the walls went up was a violent time in the night the seventies and eighties that everybody just calls the troubles decades later. You think the walls would have come down, but they have an almost all of the walls remain. They cut across communities like mine, commence to the conflict etched into the physical landscape and removing them isn't going to be easy. I could be that perhaps at one of these fires or structures, you lost a loved one. You lost a husband that partner a brother, and you have never had closure for that, so that that event that happened forty or forty two years ago, it may as well have happened four years ago for some people,
live yesterday. Every day, every day, every day the irish conflict goes back hundreds of years and it can be tough to pinpoint exam only when it began, but for our purposes let's begin history lesson in nineteen, twenty, two: that's when, after decades demands for self governing send a bloody guerrilla war. Ireland gained its independence from the UK with its capital in Dublin around the same I'm the island was partitioned with six counties in the north remaining part of the United Kingdom forming Northern Ireland. As the loyalist, where the majority there and they went creating a social and political framework to make are they remained in power, a framework that much of the catholic population found inherently unfair in even discriminatory. You couldn't vote as she didn't own here.
Property or business, but then he couldn't get access to business and property. If you didn't get access to money and you can get access to money, if you can get a job, you can get a job necessarily because you are a catholic Johnny Burn is a senior lecturer Ulster University, so you know, Catholics didn't have, senior positions in the civil service, for example- then get I have access not only to further education. It can change the system because they couldn't vote and people from the particular background they came from voting. Groups whipped close to each other. It was like they were in totally different worlds. European Mclaughlin again, I had sadly, no interaction whatsoever with kids from a catholic background note, protestant families like even sent their kids to the state run schools, while catholic children mostly attended schools run by the church, and each group you we lived in separate neighborhoods with people of their own kind are the committee tat their own many infrastructures. You had your own job
I'm scared to go, which meant that Catholics and Protestants could live there. Lives without really knowing any one from the other community is segregate meant sectarian, divides, just got deeper and deeper. Madame parenthood, very, very melon, young and catholic and eat. Still remember some of the things they used to say. You know this as well I was gonna, have a country wastepaper, we need to drive amended say, I suppose your arm and thing today when I think about it, was a bachelor mount up there. They physically meant that draperies people- and they say you know How can you live here? Wastepaper those kinds of anti catholic attitudes had real and serious effects on people's lives, and I remember the first job application I applied for this is Joe O Donnell. He grew up in a catholic nationalist household and he considered himself, Irish, not british, and on that first job application. He filled out it asked for his national
I wrote TAT Ice and my mother was written over the job application and she says you better gains that you'd never get that job and she was right. I by the late nineteenth sixties. The list of Catholic Grievances had gotten pretty long, not only They discriminated against in employment. They didn't have equal access to public housing and gerrymandering, reduce their political influence, but their demand for change, were met with strong and sometimes violent loyalist resistance. So, after being frustrated with the slow pace of progress. They begin protests from the streets, but change wouldn't come easily to Northern Ireland. The police responded to the mark. With a rests and imprisonments, which only made the protests grown larger. Eventually, the pro
just turned into riots, which in turn sparked more rights especially in urban areas like Belfast, Catholics and Protestants, live right on top of each other, making situation even more explosive. I can Oliver s sentiments as a young child you remembers going to a shop with his mom and someone can on its head. You ve turned my mistake at Irish up as a key. I turn rancher two guys balaclavas on come on. I'm not gonna nail among sat a bomb on the table are more than five minutes that shop just play, and everybody so mean killings, perhaps none that a very rapid rate was almost an everyday occurrence in Belfast. The british is once again back in the old routine men in the middle keeping peace between two warring factions. But this time it's not Aden, Cyprus or some far off colony,
incredibly in Britain's own backyard. Northern Ireland by nineteen sixty nine. The british military was despatched to Belfast to maintain order but many people had already started taking matters into their own hands residents, Indians, neighbourhood of shank, ill started, building makeshift barricades between the two communities they used burnt out cars, construction debris. Rubble from vacant houses and basically, whatever materials they could find to protect themselves from the other side Finally, after a summer of unrest, Northern Ireland's Prime Minister had had enough on September, ninth nineteen sixty nine major James. Chichester Clark, when on television and made an announcement, now on. Two sided will erect and man a a firm peacetime beside be between the division street area handling and you were on line turban by a representative body-
from the city hall in Conjunction firm peace, why he meant that the army would dismantle the barriers, the residence it built and replaced with more official looking five foot tall barbed wire fence, construct began the following day: the army, moved into building peace line on the site of the protestant barricade, work, proceed smoothly sank: he'll peace line was meant to be a strictly temporary measure. The thinking was that the are, you would give people on both sides had chanced to cool down and stop the violence one british army major predicted that the fence would be gone by Christmas, but things didn't go quite according to plan instead of being removed, that barbed wire fence was later replaced with corrugated iron cheating that was twice as high and the army, even added up survey
posts and floodlights. Ten months later, the army put up a second iron wall between two neighborhoods in North Belfast, again insisting that it was just a temporary measure, but it turned out things were just getting started. Here's luxury Johnny burn again. So the plan was to get the communities to talk they had to start taking the walls time, but then what happened? Was we normalize the policy from nineteen sixty nine onwards? Our response to end violence with the threat of violence, Physical segregation. Even of the walls, went up. The fighting continued. And, as the funding continued, the response was to build more walls. They were an imperfect solution, but burn thinks they probably prevent things from being even worse. The reality is, I dont supported, but segregation works. If you have the two communities who live fit,
apart with members of them here threatened to kill each other. People feel vulnerable, who both feet fearful here, asking the state to do something. In response, in a physical world limits the opportunities for both communities to meet each other and to engage in a thousand disorder over the next two decades. The government, private landowners constructed close to a hundred additional barriers in communities across Northern Ireland in remembers, how they started sprouting up everywhere. You noticed it didn't publicly advertising for planning permission, direct day structures. They just want party structures and bliss, so you could have quite literally driven down or walked earnestly one day and the following day went back to it. There was a structure across the street, preventing you from doing the same thing one wall even ran through the centre of a city park in done. Cairn of formerly dangerous neighbourhood and worth Belfast goes further soon. We park showed in Europe that has a piece fancy.
I should have a cigarette verrier here and shining grew up here by in a catholic nationalist home. The wall is made of core, get it steel and covered with graffiti, and a kind of snakes up and down his grass covered hill. Officially puffs apart Your first time of the vote of this should be regarded as a catholic national self interest, France will be regarded as a person in the said. It knows. One part Finally, in nineteen, ninety four, it seem like all the violence and war building might finally subside Provisional Irish Republican Army released a statement agreeing to lay down their weapons. A cassette other statement was also handed over to the problem shift their tactics to political negotiation. The announcement was met with a mixed up, scepticism and celebration.
People in Northern Ireland felt it was a historic development, which is what makes that wall here and showed me in the park all the more remarkable because there's one thing I failed to mention you remember, this was put up. Your meeting, good for people to remember cuz. It was the first of September. One thousand nine hundred and ninety four slim work started on it thirty, first of all, I wish to thank him before the day before yesterday, Ray. I scarcely sir, that's what This war was built after the cease fire. I guess people- this story, and they would think that's unusual that the ceasefire with signed, but then the very next day, A new wall is erected. Does it seem strange of you at the contact of the time of that wasn't doing with the bitterness between the two said: working stellar still manifest himself on the streets A few years later in nineteen ninety eight, the troubles affair,
Julie ended with the signing of the peace agreement, but that didn't see even more walls and fences from going up at the interfaces between catholic and protestant communities. The same old ten and remained policy of fence was built in twenty thirteen. Eventually the government enacted and the policy of wall removal. They even set a target of twenty twenty three, but when you talk to people in the grounds, There seems to be widespread agreement that the target is completely unrealistic and, aside even clear it most people want the walls to come down One of the newer walls sits in the White Well neighbourhood of North Belfast. It runs right through Joe uses backyard. June has been surrounded by violence for much. It is life you
being a kid and hiding under his bed, while gunshots rang out in the streets, his family moved at one point in search of safety, but the new neighbourhood was even worse so after he and his wife got married, they moved yet again to a new house in a new development and it seemed like. Finally, the situation would improve there is a lot to look forward to Sir was especially in the area, be a newly built and been mixed, mixed, meaning a place where people of different backgrounds live together, which was perfect since Jos, Catholic and his wife, his protestant. Their hope was that we could start over with a clean slate in an area that didn't have the sectarian baggage of other places that they lived in the past and they were hoping a razor daughters in a non partisan environment rural for that is the way forward to bring em up more wanted them
to be able to go on the world market and not be held back because religion and bigotry and suffering which be yeah. But tonight eleven of our brought up like ourselves. But after four or five years, things got bad again, it was a mere two. Thousands by now years after peace had been declared, but summertime violence begin to flare up once more first chose, neighbor was attacked, and then he says another incident hit even closer to home. It was nearly midnight totally dark, Joe and his wife were in bed. Next thing: open by the fire and smash the bottles and breakfast fire at the Windows stuff, three molotov cocktails we're petrol bombs, says Joe called them slammed in. Whose back wall within minutes his home was engulfed in flames and quite frayed, so was people in our current killed are prone to
oh begin to seriously question whether he and his family should leave. It always been opposed to peace walls in the past. He says he didn't understand them and he felt they did more harm than good, but nobody had kids. He saw things differently. In the end, it was the construction of. Two story tall mesh thence that convinced Joe and many of his neighbours that it was safe enough to stay as its case wallet we have a ham snl intruding one. I am it's. It's not and on a ship reform at what it does is give us peace of mind. It's important that people do, you have fury juices almost all the people on his block, supported this wall at the time it was built, and the vast majority continue to support it today. Either
Joe says there has been any more violence in the twelve years since it went up. He thinks that's precisely why it needs to remain where it is the people and a straight for a sad that they don't want to take, and I think a staple repaired at night strata worry on a bed when on x. Attacks from take it over there. This is what by the way, but not everyone things more walls are a good idea just down the hill. From Joe when the white, well, neighbourhood, Geraldine Cocaine, is looking for ways to create a community without them She works for an organisation that is trying to build connections between young people from protestant and catholic backgrounds. The whole idea she says is that it's hard to throw a stone at a friend, but her work has sometimes made her a target six ago. Someone snow the building where she works with the kids and left and explosive device in the courtyard above disposal
got rid of it about at the young, I been on time that door, but always real, but on the related, my term play so that I do not know what it was As Geraldine groping around her neighbourhood, I could see that tensions from the past were still very much alive as you can see the and injects protestant neighbourhood we have table stops there. We have a partisan bust of cosmic muslim people, Protestants and Catholics. They would waded separate bus stops. Then we would all get on the same, but right just crazy building thinks that the walls in her community are doing much to stop violence after Everyone has a start and end point, so people were determined can simply go around them but she argues that there is also a larger symbolic reason for why the wall should be taken down. People who
live near peace walls in so called interface communities actually face a stigma because a bit these communities. And to be the most economically deprived in the region. I judge your kind of apartheid. You'd have not interface, river air and there's a difference of the way the chatty and talk day as well. You know trick educate fragile in Belfast along comes from an interface among doesn't wondered. Doesnt will get the job among interviews, even though the put this in schools, Ultimately, she says the decisions about whether the war should stay or go need to be made by the people who live closest to them and our most directly impacted by the violence in Mclaughlin agrees. I can pay a top down approach. He knows that in a lot of neighborhoods, the idea of removing walls is unpopular, but he thinks it's possible if people move slowly and carefully has debate a process where people can
the average age? No? Ok, maybe the first step isn't to remove that structure. Maybe the first step is to take away the metal phantom through in stages and not see high regard along the Danube impact acumen inside. You know what what made me do next year, That could involve okay if we take off layers and layers of certain backward, and then you have someone shape again. What's in it, for the communities is you're gonna be up Zira Bear a player created for kids, are gonna, be if you're gonna be workable these four young people to take part in that all those thoughts have commended the agreed, even if its well, you once the walls to come down. Eventually, He sees it as a moral imperative, because there new generations of kids growing up around these structures and he wonders
What ideas of air absorbing from them, kids then the most inquiry? the level of development aid Mama was our border. In this case, you may well be told that war was procured, a stop Catholics attack in your home and on the other side I give a child may be told that war was picked out. A stop Protestants attack What do we do? We are creating shades of sectarianism kids for another generation. Higher manifests itself on the generations in December this year. This point hit hardest for me, When I visited a guy named Danny Walsh in a catholic enclave of EAST Belfast called short strand, we stood in front of his house near a wall topped with spikes and painted with Greece to prevent people from
climbing it. He said it's always felt a bit gloomy, knowing you can't interact with people on the other side, but it's the only neighbourhood he's ever known. You like waving her yeah underground I guess I was born in the street of nor nowhere else, so good neighbours friendly community, you ve, kids rain. The boy she I'll do want three, and one is common to. Do you have any fears of raising them in this neighborhood? You can hear kids plan football in the background behind it are in their homeland and there's ice cream. Trucks like any in the neighborhood just happens to be a big brick wall with it, thence thirty feet higher. Whenever that is across the stream from you, but my cousin, that's it. I was struck by just how Mary. The whole situation seemed until Danny pointed out. The decisive
truck, never crosses over to the other side of the wall. It's the catholic truck depend distance have their own life goes on in three different, damn words, so they have their own ice cream truck and we have ours and simply because he is no in this area and they have on the other side of the world too. It's really really strange thing. after the break. Also
Scott about what continues to divide Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and one berry television show that helps bring together. We often don't think of winter as a time of growth or creation, but if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website gives recouped job you thinkin about being productive, and now square space can help you do it with squares. Bates can take your cool ideas, you ve creative content, your services, goods, and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks this, because there is to use templates
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I want you guys to give me examples of things. The Catholics and Protestants have in common and things that they don't have in common. That start with similarities errant. Why don't you get the ball rolling? Ok, so we both eight. So we all anything at all. Thing, even ok, so bright. I chose not to worry someone else, a similarity. Yes pro. Since a british Catholics are irish, so that's actually difference. Persons are richer because that's another difference and I'm not sure that's actually I mean is that true and it is ass. Well, ass, fair enough Oh Protestants, right in March and catholic sake to walk. Ok, can we just Jenny? Could you just go you ve already written internally
look towards our taller Catholics. More fragile Protestants, hate ABBA Rapid up there. I find this scene so funny and went to things. That's great is that if you, if you freeze frame, the girl is written down all the different differences at the gates of shouted out, and it says things like Protestants, love suit and Catholics like statues and Protestants like flutes. And all these like, really funny tiny trivial details that scene. Like the world to these kids, but if you like the trunk board said similarities. It's completely blank again find any similarities with each other and its played for last very effectively for laughs, but I think it so. Something really interesting culturally about the conflict.
Yeah Roman, I think, you're onto something because believe it or not. From my own reporting, I could say that all these weird little perceived differences between Catholics and Protestants aren't just things that were made up for the tv show like like these are things that people from the two groups really said about each other at one time and to a certain extent, still do in fact, one of the things it was on the blackboard and that clip you just played with something I actually also heard from one of the people. I air viewed Jello Donal. There is an joke here among people who live here and they ll ask in all will of all of those things feel I can you tell the difference between a catholic and protestant and stop answer. Is their eyes are closer to a guy? It's a joke! your silence there in that moment, will you can't tell he's telling the joke or not is so funny.
We don't know what to make. I didn't know he had set itself with it such a so far into me. I'm right, I got clear, we didn't get the joke in a moment, but I think the point Joe is trying to make is is just kind of how ridiculous this whole discussion is because yet there are legitimate historical grievances, particularly on the catholic side. So people do see a difference. You know between Protestants and Catholics ended it's not all just based upon you know. Protestants like soup bore, but you know I'm in the day to day in day to day life as your walk, down the street. It's true. You really can't tell a Protestant from a Catholic, and I dont know if that fact is really inspiring orderly your troubling because is an outsider. You see how similar these groups are. Anything well If there are so similar, you maybe this, can all be solved, but I speak, Sir, the death in the darkness of this history that everyone
is holding onto the the differences. The two sides have rather than their similarities, but it's what makes me wonder: is their less of a conflict among the younger generations. Yeah yeah. I know You know you do have this younger generation now it was born after the worst of the violence and doesn't you now have the memories of all the serious hatred for the other side, as they might be moropant removing some of these walls in the future. I'm going to have to give enormous credit as well to people like Ian and he ran in and Geraldine. You were in my piece who work with community groups, including young people, to get them. You know to interact with each other and change their perceptions about their neighbors in hopefully bring about peace- and you know all that said, though of some of the progress has been made, and fortunately I think could be undone depending upon what happens with breaks it listen. So how does breaks it relates specifically to
situation in Northern Ireland and the generational divide? Well, first of all, I should set the scene for those who haven't didn't following bricks it closely. I should explain that Northern Ireland has been the main sticking point in a negotiation so far cause you know, here's the deal Great Britain. You know she consists of England, Scott. In Wales is, of course, an island surrounded by water, but Northern Ireland is also part of the UK and, as is three hundred mile land border with the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU, so that, in a raises a number of questions, if breaks it happens in the UK, you, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson sissies committed to taking it happened. What, then, you know, do they do at the border and and how does all that you know, impact the irish peace process which unites, we discussed remains kind of fragile. To begin with, many many Catholics would view breaks it. S kind of further separating the north from the rest of Ireland suited the tensions, could unfortunately flare up again and in the lock and basically told me, he thinks that you know if, if the UK,
the head and leaves the EU. It will heighten long standing political differences and make it all that much harder for these peace walls to come down any time soon and and and back to the larger question of of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. You know right now. It's totally open and and hardly even marked in many places. But you know in abreks it scenario. Many people are wondering if the government, within the building in a totally new wall separating the two countries to regulate customs and an immigration, no one on any side once to see barriers or check points. But you know just got a little over two months left. Till the brakes deadline, and at this point there is still a ton of uncertainty, so the result might be more walls, but in your reporting you mentioned that the northern irish government has set a target date for twenty. Three of removing all these peace walls and lighted. The other issues brought up in reporting. Is there any progress towards,
Any progress towards meeting that goal. That's pretty soon I yeah. Unfortunately, there has been much progress that echo was first set back and twenty thirteen. They set this ten year kind of target date, but it doesn't seem like much. Change since that time I actually asked around and not a single person. I spoke to believe, there's any chance at all that this will happen. In fact, one guy said nevermind, two thousand and twenty three the way things currently stand. It would be a miracle for all these walls to be gone by two thousand one hundred and twenty three Well, that's grim, yeah yeah and their several factors that are working against progress. First of all, you know this power sharing agreement between Catholic Nationalist and protestant unionist lawmakers in Northern Ireland collapsed back and twenty seventeen and the two sides are still can have deadlocked sue. The region has basically been without a functioning government for over two and a half years now,.
You can't exactly get important things done, how the government there there's also a demographic element to the conversation cause in general terms, the protestant communities aging, its moot they're moving out of the city, while the Catholics have a higher birth rate and a good one day being the majority. So the fear among some Protestants is that if the walls were taken down, they would be overrun by Catholics and could lose their neighborhoods in their cultural idea. They said it. There's got push back from that angle that you know ever everyone. I spoke to every one told me that removing these walls is gonna take time and it certainly not gonna be easy, but you know, as he said, twenty twenty three just four years away and these difficult conversations about how exactly to go about this process. You know and have in many in many neighborhoods. These conversations have barely even
gun and then let me finally added you know we're talk about twenty twenty three, but there's actually another date coming up in just a few weeks. That I think, is even more significant September. Ninth actually marks the fiftieth anniversary of the construction of the very first piece wall between Falls road and end, the shank ill. So you know here we have half a century later, and these supposedly temporary measures are still very much with us. I he's gonna. Ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by Scott Gurion. Anything Joe Rosenberg Indolently Hall, mixing tech products by Sharif, Useth Muse, by Sean Rio. Katy mingle is our senior producer. Kurt coal step is the digital director. There s a team is Fitzgerald, every Trautmann crisper, Bay Vivian Lee Sophia Clatter and me roman Mars. You can hear more Scott variants reporting from around the world on his podcast, far from home, where he recently visited Chernobyl and
documented in eleven thousand mile road trip he took from London to Mongolia. Ridiculously tiny car is called far from home check it out. Thanks to Don Duncan and Marcus Hunter Neil for production assistance into Menino. Oh prey of the International Fund for Ireland. We, Project of ninety one point: seven k: L W in San Francisco and produced on radio wrote in beautiful, downtown Oakland California Ninety nine percent, invisible as a member of Radio Tokyo from Pierre acts, are fiercely independent, collective of the most innovative shows in all upon casting find more radio, Tokyo, Donovan, you can find a show and during discussions about the shore, facebooking entreated me roman Mars, and show at ninety nine p. I work run to grant and read it to, but you can move freely. When thousands of design stories and then I p, I dot org.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.