Arbitration report on interface violence released

The independent arbitration team brought in to resolve interface violence in north Belfast have presented their proposals to the First and Deputy First Ministers.

David Trimble and Mark Durkan will seek funding from the executive and coordinate arrangements with relevant departments on how to implement the proposals.

The arbitrators, husband and wife team Sue and Steve Williams, worked on the arbitration process during the summer and discussed their report with Ministers earlier this week.

The First Minister said: "In recent months we have sought to build a consensus and make progress in this area by offering assistance with both community dialogue and community safety. We are glad to note that the arbitrators recognised this need. We would like to thank Mr and Mrs Williams for their work. For our part, we will continue to help resolve community tensions in Ardoyne/Glenbryn and in North Belfast more widely."

The Deputy First Minister stated: "Since becoming involved, we have always emphasised that it is only through community dialogue that a lasting solution to the tensions and divisions at this interface can be found. We are fully committed to supporting dialogue between the two communities, which we believe to be more urgent than ever, given the increased tensions in the area in recent weeks.

"We therefore ask all parties to provide feedback to the arbitrators in order to assist in achieving meaningful community dialogue."

The arbitration report said that there was a clear obligation to meet safety needs, which would need to implemented with or without the consent of the rival communities.

The report states: "The meeting of the basic safety needs of one community ought not to be subject to the consent of another community. There is a clear obligation to meet safety needs, provided that this is not done in a way which interferes with meeting the needs of others.

"Issues of consent may limit the specific choices of method or mechanism for meeting safety needs, but lack of consent does not remove the obligation to meet the needs. At the same time, dialogue and confidence-building are essential if the problems are ever to be solved in any meaningful way."

The arbitrators also recommend the installation of a 'Minimal Wall/Fence Proposal' which involves building a wall along the Alliance Avenue side of the intersection "in order to disrupt the sightlines somewhat for youths at the intersection". This also provides for a 3.6metre Ibex fence behind houses on Hesketh Road.

Further attempts, they say, should be made to build confidence and dialogue between the two communities, and the report also calls for "consensus tests" to give "authority" to spokespeople in representing community views.


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