Northern Ireland's leaders say they want to tear down the so-called "peace lines" of Belfast — dozens of walls that divide Irish Catholic and British Protestant neighborhoods — by 2023.

The Catholic-Protestant government unveiled the goal Thursday as part of wider plans to reduce divisions in what remains a profoundly polarized society.

The leaders stressed that no security barriers would be dismantled until people living on both sides felt comfortable with the move. They conceded this could take years of patient community work.

Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord paved the way for major peacemaking achievements, including the creation of a unity government, reform of a mostly Protestant police force, and disarmament of outlawed paramilitary groups. But Belfast's walls of steel, brick and barbed wire have grown in size and number.