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9 April 1998 Edition

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Walls go up despite nationalist objections

Loyalists ``staking out territory''



By Mick Naughton.

The decision to build a 200 metre long `peace line' in the Whitewell Road area on the outskirts of North Belfast and plans for another across Ardoyne Road have been bitterly criticised by nationalist residents and local Sinn Fein councillors. They believe the measures behind the planning of both 30 feet high structures reflects the desire by loyalists to ``stake out territory'' that is lying empty due to a population shift by loyalists out of Belfast.

Danny Lavery, councillor for the Whitewell area, and Mick Conlon, councillor for Ardoyne, recently completed meetings with concerned residents.

According to Danny Lavery, the residents of the Serpentine Road, who have bought their homes, do not want this 30 foot wall blocking them off.

Mick Conlon added that Alliance Avenue residents have been ``deliberately kept in the dark over future plans. This could have been cleared up quickly but a planned meeting between a Northern Ireland Office civil representative, Colin Dunlop, and Alliance residents on Monday never took place as Dunlop was told by the RUC not to go into Ardoyne. I also wrote to Adam Ingram to seek clarification and some sort of openness but to date I have met with as good a piece of `stonewalling' as anybody has seen.''

British minister responsible for `security' and himself a former Orangeman, Ingram, in announcing the Whitewell move, said he was acting on instructions from the RUC.

It falls to the RUC Divisional Commander to actually recommend that a wall be built. In this case it is known that at recent meetings in loyalist areas of North Belfast loyalists demanded the walls be built.

As recently as this week British engineers have been observed at Alliance Avenue marking out sections of Ardoyne Road in preparation for a new gate and barrier which would block off access for Catholic schoolchildren attending both primary and secondary schools. There is a real fear that the girls primary school will become a `no-go' area if the gate goes up.

There are at present 14 `peace walls' in North Belfast, and while these have largely been welcomed by residents living close by, these new walls and gate have been met with a consensus of opposition by both Alliance Avenue and Whitewell Road nationalists.

At a cost of over £150,000 the `Whitewell Wall' will close off Navarra Place with Serpentine Road, dividing an area to the rear of Serpentine Gardens. The longest section runs to the rear of houses in Serpentine Gardens to Mulderg Drive and into Gunnell Hill. Costing for the `Ardoyne Road Gate' is expected to be double this figure at a time when communities are cash-starved.
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