Community power to shine in US documentary

The transformative work carried out by community workers and volunteers in one of the city’s interface areas is to be highlighted in a new documentary being made by a US film company.

Documentary makers will be in the city this weekend to interview representatives from both the Top of the Hill and Irish Street about how they have worked to soothe any sectarian tensions in there areas - resulting in a massive drop in interface trouble over the course of the last five years.

Geraldine O’Donnell of Top of the Hill 2010 revealed that in the last five years there has only been one sectarian incident in the interface - a fact she attributes not only to the hard work of volunteers from both estates but also to the community themselves.

“What we have seen is our communities working to make the places in which they live more peaceful. People want to move forward.”

Niree McMorris, chair of the Lisnagelvin Women’s Group and Irish Street resident said it would be “almost impossible” to have predicted how far things would have come looking at the tensions which existed even a decade ago.

But the change, she explained, came at a time when tensions could have reached boiling point between the two communities.

“Things really began about five or six years ago when there was a petrol bomb attack on a pensioners’ home in Finn Gardens.

“Of course our biggest fear at the time was that this would set off a string of tit for tat incidents,” Nyree said.

Junior Morrison, a community worker at Top of the Hill, and Geraldine O’Donnell decided to take positive action and asked to meet with Irish Street residents to allay fears and look for a positive way forward.

“We can never be complacent,” Junior said.

“It’s about anticipating where problems may arise but also tackling the problems within our own communities - the poor infrastructure and lack of resources.

“What we have found is that what has been labelled as sectarian can often be an overspill of anti social behaviour within our own community.

“If we can tackle that - we can ease tensions.”

Nyree, Geraldine and Junior both say that much is still to be done but they are proud to showcase just how far they, and Derry as a city, have come.