What’s going on down at Academy Street?

The money difficulties of the Belfast Education and Library Board are well known and proposed cuts of £4m lead has created a cross-party consensus of oppostion. However, the crisis has led to a close examination of all spending and a glaring inequality in youth provision in North Belfast has been highlighted.
Youth centres (directly managed and independent) are a key part of youth service delivery. In the Oldpark area BELB spent £275,030 supporting full and part-time youth facilities in 2005-06. Facilities in Unionist communities received £0.00. The only BELB facility that had operated in a Unionist community in the Oldpark area had been closed in the previous financial year.

Is the imbalance because Oldpark has few Unionists?
Oldpark was 34% Unionist at the last Council elections.

Is the imbalance because Oldpark has no Protestants?
In the last census Oldpark was 31.85% Protetstant by community background.

Is the imbalance because Oldpark’s Protestant population is old?
In the last Census Oldpark’s 16-24 youth population was 27.3% Protestant by community background.

Is the imbalance because there are no centres?
There are a number of BELB accredited voluntary youth and community centres delivering a range of youth activities in Unionist communities. Any requests to BELB for support were always met with the reply “No”.

Is the imbalance because of need?
Oldpark has six wards – Ardoyne, Ballysillan, Cliftonville, Legoniel, New Lodge and Waterworks. All of them except Cliftonville are New TSN areas. Glenbryn, Wheatfield and part of Ballysillan are included by the Neighbourhood Renewal initiative.

It would appear as well as BELB not being able to keep control of its money nor does it seem to be aware/care how it impacts on different communities. How has this unequal situation arisen? How long has this imbalance existed? Will it act to end this inequality by re-allocation? Will extra resources be found? Will there be a cross-party consensus on dealing with this issue?

For those who may question the DUP’s analysis here are the groups and the allocation:
Based in a nationalist community
New Lodge (BELB full time) – £39,536
Mountainhill (BELB part time – Ligoniel) – £21,539
Ardoyne (Voluntary full time) – £68,703
John Paul II (Voluntary full time – Ardoyne)- £61,378
Deanby (Voluntary part time) – £22,291
Holy Family (Voluntary full time – Newington) – £54,245

Based in a unionist community
Top Spot (BELB part time – Ballysillan) £7338 – reallocated as it was closed down.

  • kensei

    “There are a number of BELB accredited voluntary youth and community centres delivering a range of youth activities in Unionist communities. Any requests to BELB for support were always met with the reply “No”.”

    There is a key piece of information missing from the article – why is that the case? Is it down to sectarianism or stupidity, or down to the nature of those youth groups or a cock up in the application process.

    Without that rather vital piece of information, I reserve judgement on a report from a highly biased source. Of course, if it is the former, it should be put right immediately.

  • willis

    Excellent post Fair_Deal

    Obviously partisan, but plenty of numbers to get stuck into.

    willis

  • fair_deal

    kensei

    BELB Youth Service justification for saying No is ‘We have no resources’. There is no application process so it isn’t bad applications so you can’t ‘Blame the Prods’ this time.

  • willis

    Is the Equality Agenda part of the GFA?

  • kensei

    “BELB Youth Service justification for saying No is ‘We have no resources’. There is no application process so it isn’t bad applications so you can’t ‘Blame the Prods’ this time.”

    I’m not blaming anyone. I’m trying to get at the heart of the matter. What is it they are trying to fund? Any unsavoury or overly partisan things involved?

    This honestly seems to extraordinary to be true, and I’d like to here an opposing explanation.

  • Shore Road Resident

    I’m sure you would, but you’ve just been told that there isn’t one.

  • Chris Donnelly

    On the face of it, it certainly appears that BELB should be targeting resources into youth provision in these specific unionist areas of north Belfast- if these statistics are to be believed.

    What is missing, Fair Deal, and I suspect for good reason, is the allocation of resources to other unionist areas vis a vis nationalist areas in South/ West/ East Belfast. I think you will find the BELB more than account for the imbalance in north Belfast by their financing of youth programmes in these areas.

    I know, from experience, that BELB appear to operate almost on a quid pro quo basis (ie. equivalence of recipients fromm Catholic and Protestant schools) for certain funding applications- certainly in terms of provision of Summer School programmes.

    What you are likely to find is that funding for a programme in loyalist north Belfast will come at the expense of an existing programme in protesant East/ South Belfast.

    From my point of view- as a republican, I believe the funds should be distributed according to need. If there are loyalist areas suffering from lack of youth provision- and I know many similar nationalist areas, (not least in the Lisburn Council area), then I would fully support efforts to compel BELB and anyone else to take measures to rectify this situation.

    I would hope you and your party would be able to reciprocate and recognise the need for similar targeting of finance/ resources where the need is identified within a nationalist area.

  • Is this a trick question ?
    ……..the link reads http : / / w w w. sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/whats_going_on_down_at_adelaide_street/

    whats_going_on_down_at_adelaide_street???????? 😉

  • james orr

    My goodness, is someone suggesting that the public sector allocation of funds might have been pro-nationalist? The joys of freedom of information!

    A fine expose´, fair deal.

  • elfinto

    The nearest Belfast City Council Leisure Services facilities to New Lodge / Ardoyne / Ligoniel are:

    Shankill Leisure Centre
    Ballysillan Leisure Centre
    Grove Swimming Baths
    Loughside Recreation Centre (Shore Road)

  • elfinto

    In other words, every public leisure facility in north Belfast is in a staunch loyalist area where Catholics / nationalist young people do not feel safe.

    But why would the DUP tell you that?

  • fair_deal

    CD

    “I suspect for good reason, is the allocation of resources to other unionist areas vis a vis nationalist areas in South/ West/ East Belfast”

    I don’t have the figures for the rest of the city so I can’t confirm or deny that.

    “you and your party”

    For the sake of accuracy I am not a member so I cannot speak for the “party”.

    C’yebzzzz

    I knew someone would spot the error when I first posted this but amended quickly. As Homer said in a recent episode of the Simpsons “Quack Quack Quack” (“it’s my first day” in penguin)

    James Orr

    I cannot claim the credit. I just did the political and census stats.

    Quha’s lake iz?

  • kensei

    “I’m sure you would, but you’ve just been told that there isn’t one.”

    And then you are proved wrong ten seconds down. I agree with the point that it should be by need.

    And on Leisure Centre services, where is Mayfield moving to again?

  • elfinto

    kensei,

    I couldn’t tell you. I thought it had been closed down.

    elfinto

  • Dk

    “In other words, every public leisure facility in north Belfast is in a staunch loyalist area where Catholics / nationalist young people do not feel safe.”

    Ballysillan is OK – my family go swimming there every week and I always hear lots of “catholic” names, including my own children.

    DK

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Fintan,

    If you’re going to get into a spot of ‘whataboutery‘, Leisure Centres are under the control of the council’s Leisure Services Department – not the BELB.

    This could be an issue of poor governance, as much as an equality issue. So it would be good to have a reply from BELB on FD’s post.

    Greater transparency would be to the benefit of everyone in the longer term – not simply Protestants in north Belfast.

    Mick Fealty

  • kensei

    “Ballysillan is OK – my family go swimming there every week and I always hear lots of “catholic” names, including my own children.”

    I don’t think that is the same as feeling safe. I wouldn’t like to be stranded there, for example.

  • DK

    Kensei – you need to get out more! I’ve also been swimming in Shankill (very nice but the wave machine is too rough), Falls (too cold), and Lisburn (excellent, but really a theme park & too expesive)

    If you live in North Belfast and are too scared to go to the Leisure centres in protestant areas then it is a very short drive to the Falls, even if you risk hypothermia there.

    DK

  • fair_deal

    Willis

    “Is the Equality Agenda part of the GFA?”

    The concept of equality predates the GFA by a few centuries. “All men are created equal” 🙂

    fair_deal

  • Animus

    In the higher age groups, there is greater uptake by Catholic young people, I think. But instead of just looking at Board figures for one area, why not look at Peace II figures and Youth Council figures as well. Certainly in the uniformed sector, there is a much higher uptake of Protestant young people. Is that because of sectarianism? Personally I don’t think so. Let’s look at the big picture before making accusations.

  • abucs

    “Will there be a cross-party consensus on dealing with this issue? ”

    Fair Deal, you make a good case. I for one would like to see at least the top two Belfast parties sit down and discuss this in a bi-partisan way and support eachother in lobbying for a fair deal. (Sorry) Money spent on leisure activities for the Belfast youth should be distributed fairly throughout the city, as within all local government areas.

  • abucs

    Post 21 was by Abucs.

  • Animus

    Men are created equal – but forget about women and children!

    What is going on with Slugger – I am not kensei but that’s what my post says (20)

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    I’ve requested a reply from the BELB, in hopes they might provide that larger picture context.

    Sorry about the software glich. I will get to it eventually. The blog runs on the time I can give it. Not being a techie, those jobs always take me longer than I’d like.

    Now if someone would like to work on Expression Engine and help keep us on the straight and narrow, I’ll not be refusing any generous offers of help on that front.

    Mick

  • elfinto

    Mick,

    I am not indulging in whataboutery. I am simply reasoning that the reason for the high spend on youth provision by the BELB in Ardoyne, New Lodge, etc, could be related to the fact that there is a total lack of council lesiure facilities in the area. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that young people need diversion.

    Young people in these areas generally do not have access to their own transport so suggesting they drive to the Falls is not realistic. The closest ‘safe’ leisure centre used to be Maysfield but I believe it is now closed. Ballysillan is definitely not a place that young nationalists feel safe going to. Quite often the risk is not the premises themselves but the area outside the premises.

    elfinto

  • Mick Fealty

    Fintan,

    Shifting the focus from the BELB’s Youth Service provision to the City Cuoncil’s Leisure Services provision is relevant if we can find an empirical link between the two. It may be that someone somewhere has indeed followed your logic in making the cuts FD has outlined above. Otherwise, I’m afraid, it is just whataboutery and obfuscation.

    Besides on a prima facae basis at least, you are hardly comparing like with like. Whilst their children’s schemes provide an important community service, Belfast’s Leisure Centres do not do anything like the skilled hands-on outreach work the Youth Service does.

    I’m certain there is more to this than meets the eye. It would be helpful to hear from people who have direct knowledge of the problem itself, whether inside BELB or from another stakeholder.

  • elfinto

    Mick,

    Rather than whataboutery, I would call it common sense. I know north Belfast well and the problems which effect it. Keeping young people off the streets is a worthwhile aim. A quarter of a million pounds is not a of money to put into youth services in such a disadvanted area.
    Most of these youth clubs are run by the Catholic church.

    Why there is no equivalent facility in Ballysillan, I have no idea, but I certainly don’t buy into the DUP line of claiming anti-Protestant discrimination by the BELB. It really is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    The DUP masquerade as defending the rights of Protestants in north Belfast but in reality they connive with the paramilitaries who continue to blight the area, destroying the qulaity of life for the people who live there. Maybe if McCausland, Doods and co took a stronger line against the UDA, UVF, etc, this would discourage young people from getting involved these organisations.

    elfinto

  • willis

    elfinto

    Most of these youth clubs are run by the Catholic church.

    Exactly! What is the Protestant equivalent? The DUP and it’s theological wing have spent the last 30 years tearing the tripe out of other Protestants, especially CofI and Presbyterian. Why don’t the Free Presbyterians pour some of their money (multiple salaries etc) into a youth club in Ballysillan, get it up and running and then look for BELB cash?

    willis

  • fair_deal

    elfinto

    “A quarter of a million pounds is not a of money to put into youth services in such a disadvanted area.”

    No it isn’t. It is even less when you don’t get any share of it.

    elfinto and willis

    “Why there is no equivalent facility in Ballysillan?”
    “What is the Protestant equivalent?”

    As pointed out at the beginning of the blog

    “There are a number of BELB accredited voluntary youth and community centres delivering a range of youth activities in Unionist communities.”

    Protestant churches in the area do run youth organisations. Equivalent/Comparable centres exist but do not receive support from BELB.

  • willis

    FD

    Which centres are comparable?

    willis

  • Mick Fealty

    El Finto,

    “I have no idea, but I certainly don’t buy into the DUP line of claiming anti-Protestant discrimination by the BELB. It really is a case of the pot calling the kettle black”.

    I don’t intend to hammer this to death. But the operative part of this segment is the very first part. Admitting that you don’t know something is a good and admirable thing, especially when the detail of a discussion like this is so important.

    Not buying a particular line is also a good and essential trait when tracking anything in journalism and the media in general. But you have been making tremendous leaps of faith all through this thread in order to believe what you want to believe about a subject which you apparently know little.

    Now you are entitled to your opinion, and as I’ve said before whataboutery is not beyond the rules of engagement here. But it makes for a dull and tedious debate if everyone who speaks just grabs the first convenient thought that comes into their heads.

    I was at networking do in London last night. One guy I spoke to, who was a bit of new media specialist, said he thought blogs were strongest when discussing detail and policy. But very weak on controversial issues when people argue out of emotion and wilfully choose to ignore pertinent facts that don’t fit their world view.

    This is a time and a place for real knowledge and detail, rather dull repetition of opinion.

  • elfinto

    FD

    And what reason was given for denial of funding? More details please.

    Where did you get these statistics from? Going by council electoral district may not provide the full picture. What is the break down by parliamentary constituency / council area?

    The DUP is complaining because there is no BELB funded youth centre in Ballysillan. Claiming discrimination is a way of generating headlines.

    And as I said previously, £270,000 is NOT A LOT OF MONEY to invest in youth services in such disadvantaged areas.

  • fair_deal

    willis

    Examples of centres with youth activities
    Upper Ardoyne Youth Centre, Glenbank Community Centre, Concord Community Centre, Benview Community centre, Ballysillan Community Forum, Sunningdale community centre plus the church groups.

    El finto

    “what reason was given for denial of funding? More details please.”

    I’ve given you the answers people got. The funding challenges the Youth service are well known so when they said they had no available resources it seemed a credible answer.

    “Where did you get these statistics from?”

    A BELB document.

    “Going by council electoral district may not provide the full picture.”

    It provides a full picture for that area. You may not like the picture it presents but that is a different matter. In this area BELB does not support the provision of a youth centre for over 1300 young people of a particualr background but supports six centres for over 3300 young people of a different one. Centres being available in East/West/South Belfast aren’t of much practical use to them are they?

    The DUP statement asks for a review of all the youth expenditure in the city and an equitable distribution so it doesn’t seem to be afraid of the ‘full picture’.

    “Claiming discrimination is a way of generating headlines. ”

    The DUP statement does not use the ‘d’ word as far as I can see nor do I think I did either, I chose ‘imbalance’.

    “And as I said previously, £270,000 is NOT A LOT OF MONEY to invest in youth services in such disadvantaged areas.”

    I agreed with you the first time it isn’t and NOTHING is even WORSE.

  • elfinto

    Mick,

    You have taken the words ‘I have no idea’ out of the middle of one sentence I wrote and placed them outside of the context in which I wrote them – journalistic sleight of hand.

    The lack of a BELB funded youth centre in Ballysillan does not prove that there is a ‘glaring disparity in youth provision’, and nor does it prove the thesis implicitly advanced by ‘fair deal’ that BELB discrimates against unionists and Protestants.

    Once again, I await more details regarding the centres which supposedly applied for funding and the reasons why they were denied.

    Is that so unreasonable?

    Glad to oppose propaganda from the uber-sectarian DUP,
    elfinto

  • elfinto

    fair-deal,

    It seems we cross posted!

    It seems that the Ballysillan is doing well for community centres and no doubt there are plenty of ‘community workers’ around as well.

    I agree that the Ballysillan area deserves a decent youth club.

    Unionists are represented – via the city council – on the BELB. So they have been aware of this issue for a long time.

    It’s unfortunate – but unsurprising – that some have chosen to put a sectarian spin on the issue. BELB stikes me as an unlikely front organisation for a ‘Fenian’ conspiracy against the Protestant youth.

    elfinto

  • Alan

    Missed this up until now.

    Elfinto, willis and others (if you are who the software says you are) – I find your posts appalling.

    First off, I understand that the funding detailed is primarily for workers and programmes. So when you multiply the principal by the amount of Trust and other money that wiil be brought in by those workers, the disparity is much worse.

    Secondly, access to professional Youth provision (as opposed to voluntary, uniformed activity) brings with it substantial added value in terms of social development – training around sexuality, personal health, racism awareness, disability awareness, personal development etc – etc. There is again a multiplier here.

    The DUP may have finally got their act together on this ( mind you, I remember Nelson McCausland singing a lonely song about this many years ago ) but to blame the utter failure of a government agency to recognise the existence of a deeply deprived group of young people on the existance of loyalist paramilitaries is obscene.

    Alan

  • fair_deal

    elfinto

    “It seems that the Ballysillan is doing well for community centres and no doubt there are plenty of ‘community workers’ around as well.”

    If you mean paid workers not there are aren’t that many and most of these centres are voluntary (non-statutory) community centres dependent on volunteers.

    The last research into North belfast community development that included an analysis of distribution of community jobs was by Peter Quinn (former GAA president) commissioned by the North Belfast Partnership and it found an imbalance between the two communities (something like 25 to 135+). However, that research would be 6-8 years old now and prior to the Dunlop initiative in North Belfast.

  • elfinto

    Alan.

    I don’t think that anyone has tried to blame this on the existence of paramilitaries as this problem is not unique to the loyalist community.

    Surely the case for assistance is strong enough on its own merits without trying to bring a spurious sectarianism into the equation.

    elfinto

  • Animus

    Mick – voluntary provision of the youth service is often as professional as statutory provision. The only difference between many ELB workers and voluntary sector workers is that voluntary workers often have better terms and conditions, but shorter contracts. A pedantic point, perhaps, but one that should be made.

    Many of the councillors on the ELBs never bother to turn up for meetings, so how aware they are of issues is largely down to whether or not they take up their seats.

  • Alan

    Elfinto,

    I think your quote was

    *The DUP masquerade as defending the rights of Protestants in north Belfast but in reality they connive with the paramilitaries who continue to blight the area, destroying the qulaity of life for the people who live there. Maybe if McCausland, Doods and co took a stronger line against the UDA, UVF, etc, this would discourage young people from getting involved these organisations.*

    To be honest when I read that I considered it actionable, the implication is precisely that paramilitaries prevent ELB intervention. If, as the figures ably testify, there is an imbalance based on community background, how, in all honesty, do you raise the issue without raising the issue.

    I believe that you were intent on shooting the messenger in preference to engaging with what is a genuine example of statutory neglect.

  • Alan

    The post above was by Alan

  • Mick Fealty

    Fintan,

    “…some have chosen to put a sectarian spin on the issue.”

    Indeed.

    Animus,

    Sorry, I will get this horrible mixing of tags sorted. As I understand it voluntary clubs in receipt of ELB funding have a higher degree of automony than the directly managed ELB clubs. But isn’t FD arguing that none of these voluntary clubs are even indirectly funded.

    Mick Fealty

  • willis

    Alan

    Just wondering if you could quote which part of my posts were “appalling”, since I have usually agreed with you on education.

    willis

  • elfinto

    “…some have chosen to put a sectarian spin on the issue.”

    Nelson ‘I understand the Holy Cross protestors’ McCausland is pretty good at stirring up sectarianism.

    Before anyone gets on your high horses lecturing me about perceived sectarianism, need I remind them that from the start this debate has been framed in sectarian terms.

    I stand over every word I wrote about the DUP and paramilitarism.

    elfinto

  • Alan

    Apologies to Mr Willis for lumping him into my criticism unfairly.

    (Actually, typing Mr Willis is a bit on the strange side, as that was the name of my primary school principal who would be about 100 today).

    Mick,
    that’s right, the issue is funding youth provision, not about funding board youth clubs.

    Elfinto,
    so you admit that you have nothing to say about youth provision in North Belfast?

    As for *framing in sectarian terms* – how would you have raised it without mentioning either community? If the issue was the failure to fund clubs for chinese youth or the disabled would you wish to be so tendentiously even-handed.

    Alan – A.K.A. *Not Mick Fealty*

  • willis

    Alan

    Ta

    willis

  • elfinto

    Alan,

    I’ve said what I have to say.
    You read what you want to read.

    elfinto

  • Animus

    I am not sure who I am responding to here, so anyone jump in. Some clubs not funded by ELBs may be funded by other sources, either the Youth Council, the Department directly, Peace II, National Lottery or through other sources. One example I heard about a few weeks ago was a film and drama club for young women in the Shankhill. It’s a youth project, but funded by health.

    My point really is to look at the whole picture. I have no doubt that youth service provision is vastly underfunded (it’s an area I work in) but I don’t buy the sectarian spin put on it by FD. I’m looking at a report from 2001 that says 58% of youth service funding (comes from Peace money, 43% is from a statutory source (whether ELBs, health trust, etc). Cherry picking can lead to some misguided, even dangerous conclusions.

    Animus

  • fair_deal

    Animus

    1. Project funding is available from a wide range of sources. This is core building and staff costs which I am sure you will be aware is the most difficult to get.
    2. Four of the six centres are voluntary so all the funding opportunities are open to them as well. It can also be easier to access such funds when you have a staff resource to work with.
    3. As far as I am aware BELB does not check with other funders before it allocates it resources so their decisions were not taken in the round.