Girdwood and the problem of shared spaces in contested areas…

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So that evening, the party walked from the CSI committee:

At Tuesday’s meeting Alliance brought things to a head by presenting a list of eight essential items which they believe should be on any document to promote a shared society. It includes a review of segregated housing, a framework for dealing with illegal flags and emblems and a test of all public spending to ensure it prioritises sharing over separation.

That same night that Spotlight programme put a lighted flame underneath the Girdwood story)…

Then ensued a pincher movement on them from both parties in OFMdFM. The First Minister was scathing:

“No-one can get absolutely everything they want out of a five-party working group trying to find consensus, but we were making good progress on the document.”

The DUP leader continued: “When Alliance thought they may not get everything they demanded, they childishly walked away from the table.”

He added: “Throughout this process there has been political sniping by David Ford, along with no serious attempt by his party to achieve a shared agreement on good relations.

“It would have been more constructive if the Alliance Party had produced any details at all on their claim of £1 billion cost of division when it was requested by the group.

Some of what’s in the BBC programme is fair comment. And Pete has demonstrated that a ‘shared future’ agenda was never on the minds of the two major political shareholders in North Belfast.

Mind you, they do have a point when they say that if you were going to start on a shared housing project, it would probably not be Girdwood. But if and when it gets to fruition, the hub facilities will effectively replace a peace wall.

This is a certainly a political manoeuvre, and by the DUP for sure, by using a funding deadline to force a decision.

And yet, the constituency has been taken off the party’s critical list, and it may even be about to benefit from the three Shankill wards where the depopulation trend of Protestant inner urban areas has not only reversed, its starting to become full.

In fact it is unlikely to make any real difference to the overall fate of the constitutency: one, because most who get houses on either side will likely already be registered to vote in North Belfast; and two the numbers have been reduced to the point of near electoral irrelevance.

In addition the housing on the so called Protestant housing faces out on a Catholic area on the other side of the road from the Girdwood site, so it is likely that over time that may become mixed or even Catholic housing in response to most pressing need.

Both these parties however play a long game. Prior to the Spotlight programme, the DUP was facing some disgruntlement with the local community at the fact of just 70 high density ‘Catholic’ housing units being built at all as a significant humiliation for them.

It may be that in the short term this is now to be seen as a victory for them. But in the longer term – short of a major new development in Glengormley or Crumlin – there is still a chronic housing shortage for Catholics in North Belfast that is simply not going to go away

Update: Here’s Jackie Redpath on the matter:

Girdwood is a unique site, an abandoned army base with huge regeneration potential, in the heart of an area formerly wrecked by sectarian violence. Do we want this potential to be shared by ALL the neighbouring communities? Should it therefore be a shared space? I imagine the unanimous answer is yes!

If so, would building 200 homes for Catholics, and none for Protestants, secure the shared space vision? I think the answer is no! In fact, on the basis of “need” argument, why not follow the ultimate logic and cover the entire site in housing for Catholics – never mind 200, make it 500 houses!! Would that be shared space for a shared future?

And then there’s the issue of lower Oldpark. It’s in a grossly dilapidated state, with the existing community living among brutal dereliction and horrible conditions. Should it be left to rot and continue to decline? The answer must be no! Is there a waiting list for lower Oldpark at present? Again the answer is no. Would you want to live there?

What I think Minister Nelson McCausland is promoting is not only providing housing on the basis of need, but as a catalyst for regeneration. In this scenario “need” is not simply defined as “names on the waiting list” but as the “needs” of people, families and communities for regeneration, renewal and sustainability.

And:

Like it or not, politics are about trade-offs, transactions and hopefully, honourable compromise. Would we prefer a continued “stand -off” at either end of the Girdwood site by the politicians, or have them stand together on the same piece of earth, having “done what must be done” to make progress possible?

They should be congratulated, not pilloried for their “deal” – it is defensible. Perhaps their only mistake was not to defend it publicly!

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  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    There might be some give and take here between Robinson/McGuinness and Ford….a delay/change of heart perhaps in the Dept of Employment & Learning abolition.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    OOPS One hyper-link too many :(

    The Robinson statement and this one from Martina Anderson:

    “Some would say the Alliance position is more about protecting the status quo in the community relations industry and those who deliver it than any real desire to see cross party agreement on this issue

    The Alliance party do not have all the answers when it comes to community relations. Their approach is more of the same.

    For over a decade we have been on a journey from conflict and division to peace and there are many tangible signs of progress. Good Relations is an essential part of all of this and we are absolutely committed to delivering on this issue.”

    Has CSI morphed into ‘Good Relations’ with the deletion of integration? [see Causeway Council Cluster Good Relations Strategy 2011-14]

  • ayeYerMa

    Sorry, but on the last paragraph why do houses have to be built exactly in North Belfast? From the way some are talking you’d think that Northern Ireland was some vast expanse of land, and North Belfast was some isolated peripheral area that took weeks of travel to reach by a gruelling trek on horseback. Weren’t we also after being bombarded with stories recently of thousands of empty houses all over and prices crashing because they can’t sell them? Covering more of our land in inner-city ghettoes of depressing tarmac-and-red-brick-not-a-tree-in-sight council houses is surely the last thing that is needed anywhere.

    And why is religion relevant at all? Why is this information even recorded? Why do people even disclose such information when asked? (I know I wouldn’t) No doubt “Nationalists”, as usual, will try to play the usual “downtrodden Catholic” propaganda routine, but this should be a good opportunity to debunk such propaganda myths with a reminder of statistics showing the consistent greater proportional allocation of social housing to Catholic households across NI from the creation of the Welfare State right through to the present day.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    this is what happens when the queue replaces the market, when housing is allocated by need but not reallocated when needs change, when heavily subsidised social housing is sub let to private tenants, when….hang on a sec Gerry Adams is on the box…gerrymandering is still practised by politicians …hang on again, Martin McGuine reading his storyboard now…..when politicians to all intents and purposes allocate housing

  • dwatch

    Concentrate on homes for Catholics in north Belfast: Executive

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/concentrate-on-homes-for-catholics-in-north-belfast-executive-16163628.html#ixzz1vuLTXW87

    What about homes for Muslims, Jews and atheists?

  • BluesJazz

    There is no housing shortage in NI. There is a surplus, mainly apartments.
    NAMA, or the banks should sell these at distress sale prices. That big empty tower at Donegall Quay and those at Clarendon Dock are in North Belfast, fill them up!

  • RyanAdams

    “the depopulation trend of Protestant inner urban areas has not only reversed, its starting to become full.”

    Mick is that true? I thought the electorates were still tumbling on the Shankill?

    “Both these parties however play a long game. Prior to the Spotlight programme, the DUP was facing some disgruntlement with the local community at the fact of just 70 high density ‘Catholic’ housing units being built at all as a significant humiliation for them.”

    I think its at least as humiliating for Sinn Fein who weren’t able to get half the figure they wanted?

  • Mick Fealty

    No, they’ve been growing again for some time. On SF, I think they can probably live with it for now. It’s not as though they’ve not argued that some outcome like this was always inevitable.

    And they have some facilities coming down the line which they will be able to claim (not least because the SDLP could not secure any durable agreement with the DUP), as well as the possibility of creating a more porous interface.

    Here’s Jackie Redpath on the matter:

    Girdwood is a unique site, an abandoned army base with huge regeneration potential, in the heart of an area formerly wrecked by sectarian violence. Do we want this potential to be shared by ALL the neighbouring communities? Should it therefore be a shared space? I imagine the unanimous answer is yes!

    If so, would building 200 homes for Catholics, and none for Protestants, secure the shared space vision? I think the answer is no! In fact, on the basis of “need” argument, why not follow the ultimate logic and cover the entire site in housing for Catholics – never mind 200, make it 500 houses!! Would that be shared space for a shared future?

    And then there’s the issue of lower Oldpark. It’s in a grossly dilapidated state, with the existing community living among brutal dereliction and horrible conditions. Should it be left to rot and continue to decline? The answer must be no! Is there a waiting list for lower Oldpark at present? Again the answer is no. Would you want to live there?

    What I think Minister Nelson McCausland is promoting is not only providing housing on the basis of need, but as a catalyst for regeneration. In this scenario “need” is not simply defined as “names on the waiting list” but as the “needs” of people, families and communities for regeneration, renewal and sustainability.

    And:

    Like it or not, politics are about trade-offs, transactions and hopefully, honourable compromise. Would we prefer a continued “stand -off” at either end of the Girdwood site by the politicians, or have them stand together on the same piece of earth, having “done what must be done” to make progress possible?

    They should be congratulated, not pilloried for their “deal” – it is defensible. Perhaps their only mistake was not to defend it publically!

  • lamhdearg2

    “In addition the housing on the so called Protestant “housing faces out on a Catholic area on the other side of the road from the Girdwood site”
    no they dont, they(will) face out onto waste ground, behind which is the loyalist lower oldpark, where many a house may be empty, but barring a late 60s earily 70s style bout of cleansing that part of north belfast will stay as it is.
    “So it is likely that over time that may become mixed or even Catholic housing”
    i would not give a catholic/irish nat, 24 hours if they moved into that part of north belfast.

    Again the plan should have been for a private housing development with low cost housing offered to folk with the will and means to move out of social housing in the ardoyne and new lodge districts, leaving the then empty social housing for those in need. The duppers have missed a trick with this, they could have confirmed their outreach to catholics program, without harming their position.

  • Mick Fealty

    In this market Lamh? In an area as youve just described it? Who would buy them?

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    Jackie Redpath fundamentally misrepresents this “honourable compromise”.

    “In the heart of an area formerly wrecked by sectarian violence”, those parties have agreed to create another sectarianly divided housing development.

    With separate, if not equal, residential blocks.

    That’s why there was little detail about the housing allocation in the “masterplan”. And why the parties were reluctant to defend their “deal”.

    “Congratulated”? Well done all concerned…

  • lamhdearg2

    The area of the redevelopment could have its own excess point onto the antrim road at Kinnaird st,city centre 10 min walk, it is all ready surrounded by walls/buildings, it could be a quite little haven of private homes with proud owners, i feel, there are plenty of folk in the ardoyne and new lodge areas that would go for that, and given the help, co-ownership? ect.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Maybe I should put my tinfoil hat on here.

    One month ago the DUP do a 180 degree turn on another contested site-Long Kesh/Maze

    Now SF have a forced smile photo op with DUP and others on the Girdwood site.

    Hmmmm. Does this mean the cost of a home in north Belfast is 1/200th of a Conflict Transformation Centre?

  • cynic2

    The fundamental problem in all of this is that, aside from sectarianism, there is no real differentiation between SF and the DUP.

    In an Assembly that acts like a county council and is mainly a vehicle
    For buying votes by doling out (mostly English) taypayers’ cash to interest groups like agriculture, how does aparty differentiate itself.

    They are all quasi socialists and all believe in big government (so
    Long as someone else is paying for it). They all want big local government dressed up as local democracy but in reality to keep all those hungry councilors fed on expenses. The constitutional issue has been reduced to a political version of the Father Ted sketch (‘that would be an ecumenical matter’) so what else is left? Sure they can keep the UUP and Alliance to torture on Health and Justice as occasional light relief but that only provides so much sport and there’s always the risk that they might do an OK job.

    So in the end the only way to gull the voters that they are different is to actively promote sectarianism. It’s their KSP and the STORMONT Sham Fight suits them both. That is why Alliances intervention is so wounding and produced the rich irony of a SF junior minister using the phrase ‘boycotter Ford’ as a term of abuse.

    So sectarianism it is, in all it’s glory. It’s not just a product of 40 years
    Ence,

  • Mick Fealty

    Lamh,

    You said: “i would not give a catholic/irish nat, 24 hours if they moved into that part of north belfast.”

    What makes you think any home owner would *buy* into a sectarian hell hole like that? That’s leaving aside any consideration of a housing market that could be screwed for some time to come.

  • lamhdearg2

    Mick,
    I was refering to cliltonpark ave/lower oldpark, the girwood site has a built in security element due to its history as an under attack army base*, it would/could be one of the safest places to live in north belfast, * see goggle maps.
    As for the screwed market, what I would be calling for is a skewed market, in that the housing would be heavily subsidised using the costs already earmarked for the site (plus more investment if needed), the payoff of this would be like getting two homes for the price of one as the social housing vacated by those that took up the offer would then be used to further alleviate what we are told is a chronic need for housing in the area.

    ps I would not nomaly be in favor of this type of gov intervention,(i am sort of pro free market me) however, as WE are spending the money anyway!.

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting…

  • Rory Carr

    the payoff of this would be like getting two homes for the price of one as the social housing vacated by those that took up the offer would then be used to further alleviate what we are told is a chronic need for housing in the area.

    Nice bit of “Find the Lady” shuffling there, Lamh, but I’m afraid that we would still only be getting one home available for new tenants at whatever price.

  • cynic2

    Lamhderg

    Interesting suggestion but given the influence of terrorists on both sides in housing allocation in north Belfast guess who would get all the bargain houses at low prices?

  • Mick Fealty

    Rory,

    There’s a mention in the original Shared Future doc which notes that 90% of public housing is segregated. Not sure of the figure for private housing, but it has market mechanisms to regulate in ways other than strict identity terms.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Jackie Redpath fundamentally misrepresents this “honourable compromise”.”

    I disagree with the general thrust of your criticism, Pete. Jackie recognises reality and has concluded that sharing a cake involves giving everyone a slice but, more importantly, some cake is so much better than no cake. In this video he points out the damage done to the Shankill not just by the Troubles but by planners, paramilitary feuding and funding at times to one part but not to another. He also recognises the trade-offs that are to be expected from the OFMDFM duopoly.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “the influence of terrorists on both sides in housing allocation”

    cynic2, the greater Athboy strategy was about the control of who lived and traded in a local community as well as who passed through. The ‘points system’ would be assessed by the local godfather, not NIHE. Perhaps the fine detail of the Girdwood project will be delegated to the BCRC. Or am I being too cynical?

  • cynic2

    Nevin

    Insufficiently cynical, I fear

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    cynic2 [6.46] I agree entirely with that asssessment. he cynicism of SF/DUP is breathtaking. Peter Robinson sent jonathan Bell out to appear on Nolan and seven days to perform a deliberate spoiling tactic which he carried out to perfection, talking over other panellists and kept repeating that that allocation of houses is strictly by need which the DUP has set out in this plan to prevent at girdwood and SF is going along with betraying the 90% of NB homeless from it own community. Dolores elly may have hit on it claiming it’s a quid pro quo for the DUP rolling over on the Maze shrine. It’s a stitch up. Stormont should be closed down This lot aren’t fit for office of any kind.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “This lot aren’t fit for office of any kind”

    Hard to disagree with that sentiment, Daniel – but you’d have to look a bit further than the OFMDFM and the Executive for a measure of the incompetence, never mind potential fraud.

    “It’s a stitch up”

    Indeed but that’s a natural consequence of the dual veto and the constitutional ‘settlement’ of 1998, modified by the change to the designation of First Minister. London and Dublin provided the mortar and the electorate provided the bricks.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    It’s to be expected I suppose, Nevin. An implied blackmail of the voting public,

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    It’s not always easy to get an apt metaphor, Daniel. The constitutional issue continues to out-weigh all others and that 50%+1 settlement has left us with a tug-of-war where brawn is everything though sometimes a clever ploy can cause the opposition to slip; a lot of energy is expended but little movement takes place.

    We can guess what the trade-offs might be but we can be sure that they take place; London and Dublin have more-or-less managed to extricate themselves from this process.

    Minorities in council areas where Unionism or Nationalism is dominant are in a much weaker position as they don’t benefit from trade-offs. We have power-sharing in Moyle, a mainly Nationalist area, but decisions and resource-sharing can come down to the casting vote of the council chairman.

  • http://sluggerotoole.com Belfast Gonzo

    “In addition the housing on the so called Protestant housing faces out on a Catholic area on the other side of the road from the Girdwood site, so it is likely that over time that may become mixed or even Catholic housing in response to most pressing need.”

    Really? Mick, from what I understand of the plans, the ‘Protestant’ houses are right beside the last ‘Prod’ houses on that side of the road, on the ‘Prod’ side of a peace line.

    Interestingly, the ‘Protestant’ houses are on the road, and if Girdwood’s perimeter wall remains, they will have a ready made peace line behind them to keep the fenian hordes in the Antrim Road development out.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new, small peace line is built from Girdwood’s perimeter right out to the main road around the planned ‘Protestant’ development.

    I reckon the unused grass area in the main nearby peace line’s ‘no man’s land’ could do with some landscaping.

  • streetlegal

    The original Girdwood thread has been deleted – presumably due to pressure from the Stormont authorities.