Sunday Life

Locks of ages!

By Sunday Life Reporter
06 March 2005

Belfast's longest-standing security gates could soon be consigned to history.

For campaigners believe it is only a matter of time before Belfast's Lower Chichester Street - adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice - is re-opened to traffic.

Royal Courts of Justice postcard

Their optimism follows a series of high-level meetings, involving city councillors, police and the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr.

The security gates - and the more recently added cast-iron sentry posts - have been in place in one form or another for more than 25 years.

But, the build-up of traffic in surrounding areas, has led to huge snarl-ups at peak periods.

And, with millions of pounds being poured into city-centre development, campaigners - including the Waterfront Hall board and Laganside Corporation - believe it is time the issue was resolved.

Sunday Life can reveal that broad agreement has been reached on a proposal to open the street to buses and the emergency services, for limited hours, on a six-month trial basis.

After that, the position will be reviewed - taking into account any security implications.

One Belfast councillor said yesterday: "It is a major step forward - and one that should be welcomed by everyone. I hope we can see this introduced fairly quickly."

The Royal Courts of Justice have long been a target for terrorists.

In 1989, the High Court was devastated by a 1,000lb IRA proxy bomb, which caused damage costing more £1m.

Terrorists have launched rocket attacks on the building, and gunmen and blast-bombers have targeted members of the security forces manning the barriers.

Security forces have also intercepted a number of bombs, as they were being driven to locations, near the courts complex.

Another councillor added: "We hope to see the trial period introduced later this year, and then move forward to a position, where the street is permanently open to all vehicles.

"Everyone accepts there could be security concerns, but - in a modern city - barriers have to come down at some stage if we are to progress.

"It's been a long-running problem that should be resolved, as the security situation continues to improve."

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