As conflict escalated between Protestant and Catholic communities, people in mixed areas across Northern Ireland increasingly left or had to flee their homes, hardening residential boundaries along ethno-religious lines. In some cases, barricades or ‘peace walls’ were erected to physically separate communities. Most of these peace walls still exist to this day.

Temporary Beginnings

Wire barricades were first used in 1920 as a temporary measure to separate the Short Strand, a predominantly Catholic area, from the predominantly Protestant Newtownards Road. This was fortified with timber in 1922 and was put up and taken down until it was made permanent during the ‘Troubles’. The use of barricades, walls, and other structures to separate communities increased significantly as violence intensified from the late 1960s.

Photo from the Cupar Way Peace Line between the Falls and Shankill Roads in West Belfast. The structure stands 45ft tall, three times higher than the Berlin Wall. (October 2023)