A DUNGANNON community has left behind painted kerbstones, intimidating graffiti and sectarian emblems in a bid to create a peaceful mixed community, a community worker has claimed.
Catholic and Protestant neighbours in the Cunningham’s Lane and Gortmerron Link Road area of the town are now looking towards a more tolerant future with optimism.
Not only are flags and bonfires a thing of the past in public housing estates in the area, regular social events are well attended by members of both religions, as well as foreign nationals.
However, anger has been expressed at government housing bodies which appear stuck in the past after it was claimed they labelled the area as belonging to the ‘Orange part’ of the town and turned down funding for social housing.
Eric Cumberland, the Chairperson of the Cunningham’s Lane Residents Association, said it was utter nonsense to label that part of the town as belonging to one religious denomination.
He was also outraged by the suggestion that religion should be used to determine whether you live in an area or not.
“Residents in our area have embraced the idea of a shared community”, he claimed.
“Our community should be used as a role model for mixed communities across Northern Ireland.”
As an example of how peaceful that part of the town has become, Mr Cumberland quoted police figures which show that there has not been a single incident of anti-social behaviour reported in the past ten months.
“This is down to the hard work of community workers on the ground, who are ensuring that the area is welcoming for everyone, no matter what your religion or nationality is”, he said.
“Everyone is living together peacefully and there is a strong community spirit. We had a children’s party recently, with about 350 people attending. Protestants, Catholics and foreign nationals all joined in.
“In the past ten months, we have had no disturbances or incidents of anti-social behaviour.”
However, according to the latest figures, sectarianism is still deeply rooted in the North’s social housing estates.
The chairman of the Community Relations Council, Tony McCusker, has said issues still to be addressed included interfaces, segregation in housing and education and the misuse of flags and emblems.
Over 90% of public housing in Northern Ireland is segregated on religious grounds, with the most polarised estates having more than 80% of one community.
According to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, estates became more segregated between 1971 and 1991, with little change in trends between 1991 and 2001.