Post-ceasefire interface fence in Co Armagh to be torn down

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By Rebecca Black, PA

A post-ceasefire steel interface fence in Co Armagh is set to be removed this summer.

The 2.4m-high steel railing fence and gates were erected at Margretta Park in Lurgan in 1999 - one year after the landmark Belfast peace agreement.

It cuts across a pedestrian access route from an area of housing to the Tandragee Road, and runs along the side of the garden of a property.

The barrier is owned by the Department of Justice, and is one of dozens of barriers which separate unionist and nationalist communities across Northern Ireland.

The structures vary from tall walls, steel gates to fences and were erected at different stages from 1969 to the 2000s to stem disorder.

Justice Minister Naomi Long was briefed about efforts to transform and remove barriers in January when she took up office following the restoration of the Stormont Assembly.

In her first day briefing document, she was told her department took on responsibility for 59 physical interface structures in 2010 while a further 21 were owned by the Housing Executive.

Ms Long was told that 46 DoJ-owned interface structures and 14 NIHE structures remain with work ongoing at many to reduce the size, remove, reclassify or reimage in consultation with the community.

She was also told that transformation was imminent over two barriers.

This included the demolition of one of the oldest peace walls in Belfast which took place at the end of January.

The barrier on Duncairn Gardens at a former flashpoint in the north of the city is being replaced with a smaller barrier, with work due to start in the summer.

Work at the steel fence at Margretta Park in Lurgan is also due to start in the summer.

A spokeswoman for the department told the PA news agency that the gate has not been closed in almost a decade.

"This area would not now be considered as an active interface," a spokesman for the department told PA.

"DoJ believe that the existing structure is no longer needed for 'the preservation of peace and the maintenance of order'; the legal basis for keeping such structures in place.

"Departmental officials have a working partnership with colleagues in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council to progress interface reduction and removal work across the district.

"Following engagement with local residents, support for the removal of the current structure has been achieved.

"Council and DoJ officials are currently working towards getting the necessary approvals to progress the removal project.

"It is expected that the fence will be removed by the end of the summer 2020."

The barrier is expected to be replaced with a small decorative fence.

Ms Long welcomed the move.

"I welcome the work that has taken place around the security structure at Margretta Park and the fact that one more interface structure is due to be removed," she said.

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