Unity through bigger ghettos?

Newton Emerson assesses the Nationalist attacks on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for building homes in Unionist communities of North Belfast.

Newton is unimpressed by the arguments and evidence put forward by the St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee and the slavish support by Sinn Fein of its moaning approach. Housing need in North Belfast follows different patterns across the two communities. In nationalists communities there is high demand for housing but in unionist communities the housing standard is poor (paragraph 32). However, it would seem this form of need is not recognised by nationalists.

“Inside they accused the executive at length and ad nauseam of following a “unionist agenda” by building new houses in “unionist areas”. Well, what else do they expect it to do? Leave the only empty land in north Belfast lying derelict to preserve the sacred sectarian balance of the constituency?Having evoked the concept of “nationalist areas” in the name of their own cause, the committee can hardly complain about such geographical abominations. ”

“The St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee offers only one piece of evidence for its accusation of bias – the fact that Nigel Dodds campaigns under the slogan ‘Keep North Belfast Unionist’. Once again, what else do they expect? He is unlikely to campaign under the slogan ‘Keep North Belfast Nuclear Free’. “
Newton questions the premise on which nationalist housing demand is built upon North Belfast

“Why is the intergenerational cohesion of certain ‘communities’ such a shibboleth in the first place? I would also like to be closer to my parents – but they live in the country and I can’t afford it….What makes the residents of St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s so special? Are their kids too good to end up in Glengormley and call in on Sundays like everyone else? “
A possible solution would be dialogue with loyalist communities but Newton also highlights the confused attitude to dialogue that Sinn Fein has:

Republicans could open negotiations with loyalists over the transfer of territory. However, that might be difficult while they’re criticising unionists for talking to loyalists when they won’t talk to republicans, while also insisting that everyone talks to everyone except the Policing Board and the Parades Commission because they have loyalist members. Alternatively, republicans could insist that the PSNI does its job by putting the remaining loyalist gangs out of business. However, that might imply that the PSNI was the legitimate force of law and order – which would never do. If they were feeling more optimistic, republicans might ask the executive to make another attempt at creating mixed areas – but of course that would never do either.”

He concludes by offering an alternative slogan for Sinn Fein

“Sinn Féin campaigns in north Belfast under the slogan ‘Building an Ireland of Equals’. What this appears to mean is “Building more houses for Catholics, right here beside their mammy and none for themmuns – so there.”

Doesn’t quite have the same ring even if it is more accurate.

  • Yokel

    IF this is so, thats just sectarianism really isn’t it? I understand that North Belfast has a fairly finely balanced Unionist/Nationalist Protestant/Catholic balance but I really realy doubt the housing authority (about to go thank you Mr Hain) has done anything other than go through hoops to keep things looking equal.

    If this complaining is somewhere inspired or informed by Sinn Fein it really wouldnt do them any good tokeep it up.

  • “If they were feeling more optimistic, republicans might ask the executive to make another attempt at creating mixed areas – but of course that would never do either.”

    If SF are truly interested in breaking out of their sectarian straitjacket, this would be the logical answer.

    Mightn’t work but for the sake of a better North Belfast surely worth a try?

    Of course, also mightn’t win them many votes, if it did work, which is probably they’ll stick to the tried and trusted “nationalist houses for the nationalist people formula.

  • Dec

    In nationalists communities there is high demand for housing but in unionist communities the housing standard is poor (paragraph 32). However, it would seem this form of need is not recognised by nationalists.

    Sorry but that’s just not true. The St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee have been arguing for 3 years that the 7 year North Belfast Housing Strategy as it did not address the different needs of the Unionist and Nationalist communities and have asked that demanded that any next strategy be split so it addresses both unionist and nationalist areas separately because of their differing needs.

  • fair_deal

    Dec

    If they recognise it why do they attack the NIHE for doing something about it?

  • Belfastwhite

    The Housing Executive response to the damning waiting list by catholic/nationalist is to build no housing in nationalist areas of North Belfast meanwhile protestant/unionist areas where empty houses have added to the “broken window syndrome” in protestant/unionist areas is to build more housing! Can someone explain that one to me?

  • kensei

    “If SF are truly interested in breaking out of their sectarian straitjacket, this would be the logical answer.

    Mightn’t work but for the sake of a better North Belfast surely worth a try?

    Of course, also mightn’t win them many votes, if it did work, which is probably they’ll stick to the tried and trusted “nationalist houses for the nationalist people formula. ”

    Coming from North Belfast, it’s depressing but every single interface area is murder. It’s an easy thing to say, and it would be nice if you could get it to work, but mixed areas are likely to lead to trouble very quickly.

    “If they recognise it why do they attack the NIHE for doing something about it?”

    I think they are criticsing them for only doing half the job.

  • fair_deal

    belfastwhite

    “to build no housing in nationalist areas of North Belfast”

    Nonsense. The Housing Strategy is to build 1750 new homes in North Belfast for the benefit of both communities. You may also wish to review these reports highlighted the various areas where work is ongoing includes both communities. Plus the NIHE are buying up private housing to service urgent need, which is disproportionatly in nationalist communities.

    http://www.nihe.gov.uk/publications/reports/nbar2003.pdf
    http://www.nihe.gov.uk/publications/reports/nbar2004.pdf

    “where empty houses have added to the “broken window syndrome” in protestant/unionist areas is to build more housing”

    They aren’t building “more”. They are replacing poor quality housing and usually replacing half or less of the number of housing units they demolish.

  • Dec

    Dec

    If they recognise it why do they attack the NIHE for doing something about it?

    FD

    Because under the current plan the situation on the Nationalist side is worsening. There should be seperate strategies for seperate problems. As Kensei said, the notion that there can be mixed working class areas in N Belfast is fanciful and naive. The middle classes from both communities can and do live next door to one another but come the summer it isn’t the middle classes who pour petrol through their neighbours’ letterbox.

    Though if Nationalists do start to move into loyalist areas does the DUP promise not to appear on TV making inflammatory references to ‘the greening of North Belfast’?

  • elfinto

    A classic example of the luncay of the NIHE building policy in north Belfast is the recent redevelopment of the Tudor area of the Crumlin Road at the cost of several million pounds while there are streets of empty NIHE properties lying empty at nearby Manor St. These houses were built during the 1980s and are set to be demolished.

  • elfinto

    I can usually agree with most of what Newt has to say but on this occasion he has just launched a cheap attack on Sinn Fein. I suspect that he lack in-depth knowledge of the unique problems of north Belfast. It’s all very well to saying move to Glengormley but there are interfaces there as well – witness the spate of murders in that area a couple of years back.

    The DUP have a three pronged strategy for maintaining control of the north of the city:

    1. Build lots of surplus housing in unionist areas because one day the people who left for Bangor, Carrickfergus and elsewhere in the 1970s will decided to move back to paramilitary infested areas. Supposedly.

    2. Prevent Catholics from moving into unionist areas by tacitly supporting paramilitaries.

    3. Hope that Catholics who cannot afford the ridiculous prices in nationalist areas of north Belfast get fed up and move to Glengormley and beyond.

  • fair_deal

    “Because under the current plan the situation on the Nationalist side is worsening. There should be seperate strategies for seperate problems.”

    Then surely the line of attack on the NIHE should be “We have A on the waiting list. This has gone up by B amount in the last C years. The NIHE have pledged to build or buy D homes to address this. This leaves a clear gap of E. Our solution is F” Not “They’re building houses for them’uns”

    An area strategy can address multiple problems at the one time. It isn’t rocket science.

    elfinto

    “A classic example of the luncay”

    What’s lunatic about not wanting to live in homes regularly attacked? A number of the families who moved into Tudor were forced from Torrens why would the want to jump out of a frying pan into a fire?

  • mark

    Typical Emerson and Irish News piece.

    They completely ignore the fact the SDLP have shared the assesment with SF and community groups for years.

    Lewsley and Morgan (before he resigned) have both made similar points and the SDLP in North Belfast shared the assesment recently.

    Just like they completely ignore the resignation of a senior member of the SDLP. (find that story in the IN)they ignore any reporting of an SDLP position that would damage an attack on SF (or in Emerson’s case also those living in deprivation)

    Emerson and the IN only tell half the story and weight a story on a housing crisis into an anti-SF load of biased bull.

    They are so keen to have a pop at SF and the poor (again) that both misrepresent the position with nonsense about how the most deprived communities could save up and move to Glengormley then drive in their Beamers to the folks house on a Sunday.

    And this paper denies that it has a pro-SDLP line. Well the invisible refences to shared SF/SDLP positions on this issue and resignation of the SDLP vice-chair yet again make their denials look at odds with the evidence in print.

  • fair_deal

    elfinto

    “The DUP have a three pronged strategy for maintaining control of the north of the city:
    1. Build lots of surplus housing in unionist areas”

    1. The DUP don’t build houses.
    2. The NIHE “build to list” ie they build to suit what is on the housing list (not a great approach in some contexts) so they don’t build “surplus” housing. The only example of not doing this in North Belfast was the Alliance area of Glenbryn built in the late 1980’s. It was built at risk ie without a waiting list – it is actually the best bit of the area now in terms of a stable population of long-term residents.
    3. There is also an underlying thing about the North Belfast Unionist community being in interminable decline I don’t think that is so true anymore. The Unionist share of the vote between 1997-2005 was virtually stable 52% and 53% respectively and the nationalist vote at westminster between 2001 and 2005 actually dropped from 47% to 45%. They are running out of development land in Ballysillan and recent private housing developments have been very successful. As have the social housing developments in Wheatfield, Tudor, Grove and Glenbryn Phase 1. There are now only two areas in real difficulties which are Lower Oldpark and Tigers Bay.

    “3. Hope that Catholics who cannot afford the ridiculous prices in nationalist areas of north Belfast get fed up and move to Glengormley and beyond.

    Try buying a family house in Ballysillan.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Nobody was forced from Torrens, to suggest otherwise is a lie.

  • Eóin

    The response below from the author of ‘Waiting for Equality’ has been sent to the Irish News:

    While I can’t take credit for the imagery of the back page of the report Waiting for Equality, I suspect that it was the substance of the document rather than the cover which so ‘depressed’ your columnist Newton Emerson.

    The research drew upon a variety of sources including Housing Executive waiting list and new build figures, their public statements and internal papers, government research and public comments from Unionist politicians and the police. This evidence suggested that the Housing Executive has been unduly influenced by the Unionist political goal in the area; to preserve the Unionist electoral and territorial majority. Waiting for Equality specifically called for housing investment to be insulated from political and sectarian agendas. This would be ensured by grounding housing investment in transparent, objective criteria of housing need.

    Yet Emerson claimed that only one piece of evidence was provided; the DUP election slogan. He also failed to grasp the most basic point of the document by accusing the commissioning organisation, St. Patrick’s & St. Joseph’s Housing Committee of wanting to ‘preserve the sectarian balance of the constituency”.

    Emerson simultaneously alleged that “not much” can be done about the Catholic waiting list, criticised campaigners for not offering answers and proffered his own ‘solutions’ such as negotiating territorial carve ups with the UDA. If Newton had read the report properly he would have realised that St. Patrick’s & St. Joseph’s have identified numerous housing sites and have developed a proposal for the ‘Sailortown’ project. This has the potential to virtually eradicate the waiting list in the area (incidentally it is in a non-contentious area) but it has been actively undermined by the Housing Executive and Department for Social Development (p. 20 Newton). The solution exists, the will is lacking.

    He concluded by rounding on the residents of St. Patrick’s & St. Joseph’s; why should they get a house close to their family when he must “borrow, work and save to live where he can?”. While Newton may regard this as wit it simply betrays the puerile nature of his argument, as well as a degree of resentment towards people who are unable to afford their own home.

    While I appreciate that people will take their own view on these matters, as the Report’s author I would welcome more serious examination and considered comment, rather than trivial nonsense and confused social perspective from an often sparkling commentator.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    “They aren’t building “more”. They are replacing poor quality housing and usually replacing half or less of the number of housing units they demolish.”

    In actual fact the housing quality is exactly the same. In catholic areas people live in them and they are maintained out of necessity. In protestant areas people don’t live in them and they are falling into dereliction.

  • elfinto

    Of course, according to the DUP mentality, if a unionist area is in decline it must be because it is under ‘attack from nationalists’. Nothing whatsoever to do with the parmiltary drug-dealing scum who infest these places and drive out anyone with a bit of ambition who is able to move. No, blame the Fenians.

    Thus, if whole streets of houses in Lower Oldpark (ex-stomping ground of Johnny Adair) lie empty it must be down to Taigs.

  • Kensei,
    “Coming from North Belfast, it’s depressing but every single interface area is murder. It’s an easy thing to say, and it would be nice if you could get it to work, but mixed areas are likely to lead to trouble very quickly”

    Whether the building of mixed areas in N Belfast is presently feasible or not is one question, whether SF would want such integration even if it was, is quite another. Why are they not even trying?

    Chris Donnelly on Slugger a couple of weeks ago accused the DUP of ignoring the greater good of the community, for the sake of scoring a few sectarian bonus points. Looks to me like SF are doing exactly the same here.

  • fair_deal

    “This would be ensured by grounding housing investment in transparent, objective criteria of housing need.”

    The present policy is based on objective criteria of need. One community needs more housing another needs better housing. Both are transparent objective need.

    “a proposal for the ‘Sailortown’ project”

    On the suggestion of a mixed community project in North Belfast. Is Sailortown a possibility? Sailortown was a mixed community.

    shuggie

    “In actual fact the housing quality is exactly the same”

    Wrong.

    “North Belfast has a higher rate of housing unfitness (9.4%) than Northern Ireland generally (7.3%). Housing conditions in the Protestant communities of North Belfast are generally worse than those in Catholic areas. Thus, Protestant households are 30% more likely to live in unfit houses, 36% more likely to live without basic amenities and have costs of necessary repairs 51% higher than Catholic households.”

    elfinto

    Yes forgetting again that nationalists never ever perpetrate sectarian attacks at north belfast peacelines. Cross their heart hope to die.

  • elfinto

    Yes. fair_deal. Blame the taigs. Suppose there was some grand scheme to get the Prods out of lower Oldpark. Why waste the energy? The whole area is collapsing due to infestation by drug-dealing scum masquerading as defenders. But why would the DUP tell us that when it’s easier to invent the usual Papist conspiracies.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Ein has raised the issue of why certain people should get a house close to their own family while others don’t – but he asn’t answered it. Why should certain people feel entitled to an Executive house in a certain area? If its impossible to bring new houses to the extra people, why not take extra people to the new houses?

  • fair_deal

    All

    For those who think Unionist communities have a great relationship with the NIHE I suggest this as some helpful reading

    http://www.booksulster.com/store/5828.htm

    elfinto

    More denial.

    The area to which I refered to people leaving was Torrens. It was not under the control of the drug dealers to which you refer. Nice try but blaming Johhny doesn’t work for that community.

    Lower Oldpark suffers from a range of socio-economic problems plus paramilitarism plus sectarian attacks. The vast majority of the houses that are empty in Lower Oldpark are directly on the peaceline, physical evidence to the key role sectarian attack contributes to its decline.

  • fair_deal

    “Nobody was forced from Torrens, to suggest otherwise is a lie.”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Peacelines were built around Torrens because of the perfect harmony between the two communities. People had grills on their windows because of the showers of rose petals that were cast at their homes. A Sinn Fein councillor was there to applaud the builders putting up protective fencing, they got entirely the wrong end of the stick when they thought they were being intimidated off it etc etc.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘The area to which I refered to people leaving was Torrens. It was not under the control of the drug dealers to which you refer. Nice try but blaming Johhny doesn’t work for that community.’

    No it wasn’t Johnnie it was the Moody family who destroyed that area from within. The decent people left over a period of years leaving behind what was in effect an extended family of ne’r do wells. They then successfully negotiated a nice little earner to vacate an area that was derelict for new housing adjacent to Agnes Street.

    The derelict houses at Lower Oldpark were primarily the result of the unionist drugs feud.

  • Eoin

    “Eoin has raised the issue of why certain people should get a house close to their own family while others don’t – but he asn’t answered it.”

    I didn’t answer it because it is not a serious point. This has nothing to do with being able to live close to the community which you grow up in. It is about highlighting and challenging the notion that people’s access to social housing within any area should be undermined by a political agenda of retaining electoral and territorial control.

    Incidentally this also occurred in England as Conservatives in a marginal constituency attempted to deny perceived labour voters access to social housing. Similar accusations have been levelled against George Bush. Unfortunately in the eyes of many politicians housing means votes. It is therefore crucial that political agendas do not interfere with the goal of meeting housing need in a fair manner.

    Can I also say that it is not a case of being unable to meet Catholic need. The issue here is will as was demonstrated by the NIHE’s approach to Sailortown.

  • Shore Road Resident

    If it isn’t a serious point, then why did you raise it?
    Can you tell me why people who can’t be housed exactly where they want in North Belfast can’t simply be housed somewhere else?
    This is a question that is going to arise more and more as the new planning laws bite. Various parties are already declaring that rural communities must be kept together generation after generation, but they aren’t explaining why either. Whether or not Emerson intended to be puerile, the point he raised is valid and you are ducking it. What’s so special about some people that they can demand to live exactly where they want and cry “discrimination” if they don’t get it?

  • fair_deal

    “The derelict houses at Lower Oldpark were primarily the result of the unionist drugs feud”

    Err no. A good chunk of the dereliction and a number of now vacant plots of cleared derelict homes predate the feuding. Also homes within the area vacated during the feud have mostly been occupied again.

    The moronic feuding hurt Lower Oldpark but the dereliction on the peaceline was long before any feuding.

  • Dec

    SRR

    Can you tell me why people who can’t be housed exactly where they want in North Belfast can’t simply be housed somewhere else?

    So why then bother to have a Housing plan? Why not announce that if anyone wants a house they’ll have to piss off somewhere to in the sticks? The simple fact that there is a plan (apparently) to alleviate the Housing problems in North Belfast for both communities but the issue is that it is only working in the Unionist community. Strictly speaking this should be an issue for our esteemed MP to get involved in on his constituents behalf but since he works on the assumption that more of themmuns with houses means less votes for me, he restricts himself to making the occasional remarks on TV referring to SF plots to ‘Green North Belfast’.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Dec, you’ve answered the question yourself. Why do we bother with tribal ‘housing plans’?
    Shouldn’t we simply be building public housing on the best available land? Or the cheapest available land?
    The concern of some people here is plainly not merely one of housing Catholics and housing Protestants, but of housing them in ‘the right place’ for competing electoral concerns – the ‘bigger ghettoes’ of the thread title.
    Why should that be the concern of the housing authorities?
    I really don’t see why anyone who wants a house off the state can’t be told to take what is available. We may still need to provide segregated housing but it is the final insult to be asked to provide it in certain locations – while everyone else has to sign up for a lifetime of debt and keeping their heads down just to live wherever they can.

  • elfinto

    fair deal,

    I am in denial of nothing. You are peddling lies and hatred.

    Torrens – Fenians. Lower Oldpark (looks like it has been bombed form the air) – Fenians. TBay – Fenians too. It’s nothing to do with the defenders of Ulster and their ganster activites of course. Denial.

    I suppose Fenians are repsonsible for the dereliction of the lower Shankill as well then. Take a look at it on Google Earth.

    I hear there’s a guy from Ardoyne with an arm like Cuchulain who can throw a petrol bomb for hundreds of yards.

  • Dec

    Dec, you’ve answered the question yourself. Why do we bother with tribal ‘housing plans’?

    Because some of us choose to live in the real world.

    Shouldn’t we simply be building public housing on the best available land? Or the cheapest available land?

    See above

    The concern of some people here is plainly not merely one of housing Catholics and housing Protestants, but of housing them in ‘the right place’ for competing electoral concerns – the ‘bigger ghettoes’ of the thread title.

    Clearly, none more so than our own MP.

    Why should that be the concern of the housing authorities?

    Their concern should be to tackle Housing needs. They are clearly failing. That is beyond debate.

    We may still need to provide segregated housing but it is the final insult to be asked to provide it in certain locations

    I don’t believe that all of North Belfast can be dismissed as a ‘location’, otherwise there wouldn’t be 7 year Housing plans devoted to it.

    Simple fact is because its taigs who are ‘moaning’ (to quote Fair_Deal) you’re automatically opposed regardless of the issue. Meanwhile over on the thread dealing with the Governments £30 million bribe (copyright Glenbryn child-abusers) last summers’ rioters, its all great news.

  • Eóin

    “If it isn’t a serious point, then why did you raise it?”

    In fact it was a point raised by Newton, not me. I described it as irrelevant and childish. You asked me to answer it anyway. I did and informed you that that is not what is being asked for; the demand is that the NIHE fufils its remit to provide services not on political concerns, but on the basis of objective need.

    “Can you tell me why people who can’t be housed exactly where they want in North Belfast can’t simply be housed somewhere else?”

    I am not saying that people should be able to live ‘wherever they want’. I am saying that government policy should not force people out of the area in order to preserve Unionism’s electoral majority in North Belfast. Social policy should be free from this sort of interference.

  • Shore Road Resident

    But Ein, you have no evidence that people are being forced out “in order to preserve Unionism’s electoral majority”.
    Just because the failure of the Housing Executive Strategy suits Nigel Dodds doesn’t mean that the Executive is failing deliberately to please Nigel Dodds. That’s a ridiculous accusation and you can’t back it up.
    If you think social policy should be free of political interference, then why are you then one putting a political spin on a purely practical problem? There’s no more emtpy land in ‘nationalist’ north Belfast – so why can’t people in need of public housing be housed somewhere else?

  • fair_deal

    elfinto

    “You are peddling lies and hatred”
    “It’s nothing to do with the defenders of Ulster ”

    I see we are heading to slugger law territory.

    If you bother to read what I wrote I SPECIFICALLY identified paramilitarism as a problem in the Lower Oldpark so I’m not in denial.

    Please offer a quote from my postings where I deny loyalist paramilitaries have a detrimental effect in their communities?

    I suppose when I mention 13 year old BRA pupil Jonathan Peoples being the victim of a sectarian assault by three youths while walking home on Cliftonpark Avenue on 20th March 2005, left with a broken nose and requiring stitches I am a liar. Did Jonny come back on the Seacat as a day passenger to give the kid a hammering?

    To say there is sectarian violence in North belfast is a sad reality. How is that hatred?

    Please provide one quote where I tell anyone to hate anyone else? The only person to use derogatory religious terminology is yourself.

    “I suppose Fenians are repsonsible for the dereliction of the lower Shankill”

    No they aren’t. The dereliction can be traced directly to the feuding. Lower Oldpark’s dereliction predated it so it cannot.

    Dec

    “‘moaning’ (to quote Fair_Deal)”

    I was quoting Newton.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    fair_deal

    “Wrong.”

    No, I’m correct in what I said and you should try to address about what I actually said.

    “Thus, Protestant households are 30% more likely to live in unfit houses..”.

    These kind of statistics are much more useful if put into a demographic context.

    For example, do protestant areas have 30% more pensioners compared to the catholic areas.?

    If you are in your 70’s or 80’s it’s unlikely that your home has been adequately modernised in the recent past, in contrast to a physically and economically active 30 or 40 year old.

    My original observation that the quality of housing is exactly the same still stands – I’m talking about house-build, there is no difference.

    It would be useful if someone provided us with a demographic context to give a bit more meaning to the sectarian analysis on this thread.

  • fair_deal

    Shug

    Your post is confused.

    You claim there is no difference then try to offer a demographic explanation for a difference. Identifying a possible cause of a difference doesn’t mean the difference somehow evaporates. It just means you may have identified a possible basis for targetting work to tackle the problem.

    In the North Belfast context my hunch is your choice of the age of occupiers or owners isn’t the core explanation. The age of the houses (many interwar two-up two-downs or similar), which were more systematically cleared by the large redevelopments of social housing in nationalist communities than it was in Unionist areas of North Belfast, is the source of the poorer housing quality.

  • Eóin

    “Just because the failure of the Housing Executive Strategy suits Nigel Dodds doesn’t mean that the Executive is failing deliberately to please Nigel Dodds”.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. The Strategy has failed, it has benefited the Unionist political agenda, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is deliberate.

    However there is evidence to suggest that it is. For example the NIHE has openly endorsed in word and deed the Unionist political desire to ‘stabilise’ the decline of the Protestant population (and consequently vote). This has nothing to do with housing need.

    In contrast, as you acknowledge, it has utterly failed to meet Catholic demand. This is despite the presence of solutions such as the Sailortown project. The suggestion that the land is not available is simply untrue, the NIHE has just lacked the commitment to acquire and develop it. It is also notable that the NIHE has publicly urged Catholics to leave north Belfast.

    Perhaps it would be helpful if I could get a web link to the report so that people can respond to the content of the report rather than Newton’s take on it.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Thanks for that Ein, but I must take issue with you over your position.
    Naturally the executive wants to ‘stabilise’ population decline in an inner city area. You are suggesting that this is a plot and an outrage – but it is just standard estate management. Emerson asked if your group wanted the Executive to abandon derelict areas to preserve the sectarian balance of the constituency and it sounds as if that is exactly what you’re after. Isn’t that bringing a political dimension into social policy?

  • fair_deal

    Ein

    “It is also notable that the NIHE has publicly urged Catholics to leave north Belfast. ”

    Just like they told the Protestant community in other parts of the city e.g. Belvoir, Rathcoole, Taughmonagh, New Mossley, Ballybeen etc. Just like they told the nationalist community in west belfast e.g. Twinbrook and Poleglass.

    “This is despite the presence of solutions such as the Sailortown project”

    There is development going on in Sailortown.
    http://www.sailortownbelfast.org/Housing.htm

  • elfinto

    ‘Fair Deal’

    Your whole argument on this thread so far has been based on the premise that primary cause for dereliction within loyalist areas is sectarian attacks. Anyone who dares to mention paramilitarism or DUP social engineering gets accused of being in denial about sectarian attacks.

    You cited one sectarian attack but that does not come anywhere close to proving your thesis. If every sectarian attack on a school child led to people fleeing an area there would be no Catholics left in north Belfast.

    I referred to lower Oldpark earlier, you switched to yet more tired allegations about Torrens. I mentioned lower Oldpark because I happened to take a drive round that area a while back. The dereliction is absolute and extends into the area several hundred yards beyond the ‘peaceline’ and cannot be put down to sectarian attacks.

    These houses are relatively new but are set to be demolished yet a stones throw away (pardon the pun) new houses were being constructed. Madness.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Elfinto, you’re correct and Fair Deal is labouring the point.
    But I still don’t think Ein has answered the key points in the article – does he want ‘unionist’ areas left derelict to preserve the current electoral balance? And why should some people presume a right to demand housing wherever they want?

  • elfinto

    One thing is for sure – there is no easy solution to this problem. Of course the ideal solution would be mixed estates. I would like too see a small scale experiment with this maybe on a voluntary basis.

    But unfortunately the reality for most in north public sector housing in north Belfast is segregated housing.

    The ‘perception’ among the nationalist community in north Belfast is that the NIHE is providing a fairer deal to the unionist community that it does to the nationalist community.

    There is a bit of an urban myth doing the rounds about the Protestant single man in his early twenties beeing able to get a three bedroomed house more or less on demand while a stones throw away (again pardon the pun) the Catholic couple with two kids have to stay with parents for months on end because they can get a flat.

    How much truth there is in the above scenario I do not know but it is a potent myth.

  • elfinto

    Typo – I meant the Catholci couple can’t get a flat.

  • fair_deal

    elfinto

    I note you offer no quotes to sustain your charge of hate and lies.

    “the premise that primary cause for dereliction within loyalist areas is sectarian attacks”

    Again I did not say that. I was specific to torrens and lower oldpark. I agreed the problems of derelction in the Lower Shankill were not to do with sectarian attacks and accepted the paramilitary feud hurt lower oldpark.

    “but that does not come anywhere close to proving your thesis”

    How about the large constructions called peace lines? The numerous CCTV cameras placed at different parts of North Belfast where the two communities meet? The houses and interfaces with reinforced glass and grills? The police presence on weekday afternoons on the Crumlin Road to protect school buses and school children? The numerous academic reports into sectarian tensions and its impact in North Belfast? More lies and hate or plenty to sustain my thesis that there is a long pattern of sustained and ongoing sectarian violence in North Belfast?

    “to take a drive round that area a while back.”

    I was there last friday on a guided tour by the local community group. The vacant land is directly beside the peaceline. One court/cul-de-sac that is completely derelict and the other that is is about a third empty are both beside the peaceline. The houses on the Oldpark Road itself (the ones covered in grilles) are now mostly derelict too.

  • elfinto

    “Inside they accused the executive at length and ad nauseam of following a “unionist agenda” by building new houses in “unionist areas”. Well, what else do they expect it to do? Leave the only empty land in north Belfast lying derelict to preserve the sacred sectarian balance of the constituency?Having evoked the concept of “nationalist areas” in the name of their own cause, the committee can hardly complain about such geographical abominations. “

    I just re-read the original piece and I find the logic bizarre. For instance Newt accuse of SF of wanting the land left derelict to preserve the sectarian status quo. Yet it is actually the reverse scenarion that is true – it is unionists who would rather that land and houses be left derelict rather than allocated to Catholics.

    This scenario is happening right across north Belfast. Recently unionist politicians were objecting to plans to build a small estate next to the Bone area on the Oldpark Road arguing that it would create a new interface.

    A couple of years before that unionists were objecting to a private housing estate being built on the site of the former Dunmore Stadium – this eventually got the go ahead.

    And before that the former MP Cecil Walker was protesting about plans for another private development on vacant ground near to White City on the grounds that Catholics might buy some of the houses. The development was subsequently stopped.

  • elfinto

    FD

    I think that you have now changed your tune somewhat.

  • fair_deal

    ein

    The Housing strategy was launched in October 2000. The Sailortown proposals were made in May 2004. It is unfair to criticise a strategy for not including proposals made three and half years after it was written.

    elfinto

    A potent myth is still a myth. The peaceline can create an impression that over the other side everything is somehow better. Sometimes it is sometimes it isn’t.

    On housing there is little love lost between the Unionist community and the NIHE. In terms of family housing the NIHE has a disproportionate amount of two bedroom housing in unionist areas (no longer suitable for families) e.g. Graymount so the Catholic family would be little better off a list in a Prod community. A greater flexibility on the areas the single person is willing to consider may also enable them to be housed quicker.

    “I think that you have now changed your tune somewhat.”

    Nope and here are the quotes to show it

    ” A number of the families who moved into Tudor were forced from Torrens”

    “The moronic feuding hurt Lower Oldpark”

    “The dereliction [Lower Shankill] can be traced directly to the feuding.”

    Still waiting on the ones to prove the claims of lies and hate

  • elfinto

    OK ‘fair deal’. I won’t keep you waiting any longer cause you’ve left some pretty big clues:

    In you blog the link to Emerson’s poor article is highlighted in red and the text of the link is ‘nationalist attacks’.

    You then proceeded in your latter posts to rant on about ‘people being driven out of Torrens’ and to say that lower Oldpark is derelict because of nationalist attacks.

    None of this was relevant to the article and in fact no-one had mentioned sectarian attacks before this. I disagreed with what I strongly to believe is a flawed analysis of the situation and you accused me of being in denial about nationalist attacks – implicit in this is an accusation that I am turning a blind eye to sectarianism against Protestants (a charge which I emphatically reject).

    Basically you posted a story about housing but really what you wanted to discuss was ‘nationalist attacks’ against unionist areas of north Belfast.
    As soon as anyone disagreed with the premise of the original article you changed the subject and began slandering those who you perceived to be arguing from a nationalist view point.

    Congratulations to Shore Road Resident for being honest enough to tell the truth as he sees it.

  • PaddyReilly

    This seems like trivial bickering, but you can see the reason behind it. North Belfast is of course number nine (out of eighteen) on the Nationalist wishlist of Westminster Constituencies in that great, but failing gerrymander known as Northern Ireland. Another 5000 Fenian votes and it is lost to Unionism forever. Trouble is, as the ninth to go, with it goes any visible evidence of a Unionist Majority, at least at Westminster.

    North Belfast goes, all of Belfast goes, the whole province goes. For this reason every last street has to be fought over, and has been, in the past with murderous violence, at present, mercifully, mainly with protests or skulduggery.

    In such circumstances it would be optimistic to expect truth and reasonable behaviour from either side.

    One commentator, whom one suspects of inclining slightly to the Unionist side, asks why (the benighted Fenians) do not just move to where the housing is available: presumably somewhere where extra Nationalist votes would not upset the status quo.

    Meanwhile, on another thread, others of the Unionist persuasion seem to be planning the ethnic cleansing of anyone who takes up such an offer. Doesn’t seem worth the effort, does it?

  • heck

    As an ex north Belfast resident I have heard the claim that nationalist are discriminated in housing in North Belfast before. I believe Brian Feeney wrote and article suggesting that sectarianism was the reason for the difference in house prices between nationalist and unionist areas in North Belfast. This should be easy to verify or disprove.

    Would it not be a suitable final year project for some bright economics student?

    He or she could examine sales of houses in various areas of north Belfast and adjust for house size and other factors. (Say between the Antrim road and the Shore road.)

    If Brian Feeney’s claim is correct that there is a premium to be paid to live in nationalist area then this proves there is a shortage in supply. If there is no price difference (after all factors have been adjusted for) then these claims are false.

    Isn’t supply and demand driving prices one of the laws of economics?

    It is an easy claim to prove or disprove. Just go to.

  • Dec

    Dec

    “‘moaning’ (to quote Fair_Deal)”

    I was quoting Newton.

    Really, I thought the quotes from the original piece were in italics.

  • fair_deal

    elfinto

    Again no direct quotations just characterisation of comments.

    “Basically you posted a story about housing but really what you wanted to discuss was ‘nationalist attacks’ against unionist areas of north Belfast.”
    “None of this was relevant to the article and in fact no-one had mentioned sectarian attacks before this.”

    St Pat’s and St Joe’s, a nationalist housing group, produced a report attacking the NIHE hence nationalist attacks.

    ” implicit in this is an accusation that I am turning a blind eye to sectarianism against Protestants (a charge which I emphatically reject). ”

    When I raised interface incidents you replied

    “You are peddling lies and hate”

    That is not an implicit blind eye it’s an explicit one. Also not in any of your postings have you accepted that sectarian attacks occur in North belfast except against Catholic schoolchildren.

    In my postings I acknowledge the damage of interface attacks AND paramilitarism. You have refused to acknowledge sectarian attacks blaming solely paramilitarism.

  • Eoin

    “Naturally the executive wants to ‘stabilise’ population decline in an inner city area. You are suggesting that this is a plot and an outrage – but it is just standard estate management”.

    I think you make a very good point Shore Road Resident. But it is based on a premise which I am uneasy with. The NIHE is faced with a declining Protestant population and a rising Catholic population. Either it can take a position of integrity, focus on the housing issue and do its best to meet need wherever it arises. Alternatively it can take on board the political ramifications and intervene to try to ‘stabilise’ these demographic trends.

    People seem to take the view that the NIHE have come to a compromise by meeting need within traditionally Catholic areas, but without redrawing community boundaries where houses lie vacant in traditionally Protestant areas.

    If this was the case I would have some sympathy with their position (although I would also have serious reservations). However, they have gone beyond this by showing a total lack of desire in developing potential sites in Catholic or neutral areas. I have no sympathy with that stance.

    “Emerson asked if your group wanted the Executive to abandon derelict areas to preserve the sectarian balance of the constituency and it sounds as if that is exactly what you’re after.”

    First of all it is not ‘my’ group. No offence but I resent the way in which I as an independent researcher have been ‘lumped in’ with the Housing Committee and with SF; I will take my own view on these issues. The point I made was that the sectarian ‘balance’ of the constituency involves a Unionist majority. Why would this so called ‘republican’ Housing Group want that to be preserved? In any case no one has said that they should be left derelict. But why build houses where demand is virtually non-existent? What about offices, parks or shops or (god forbid) let Catholics live in them?

    “The Housing strategy was launched in October 2000. The Sailortown proposals were made in May 2004. It is unfair to criticise a strategy for not including proposals made three and half years after it was written.”

    That is also a good argument. But I think that if you look at the context the criticism is justified. When the strategy was launched the NIHE claimed that it had already identified sufficient land to address the Catholic waiting list. When it was criticised for its lack of investment a year or two into the strategy it said that it could not identify suitable land afterall. So the Housing Committee sought solutions, identifying almost 40 sites and then developing the flagship Sailortown project. Some of the sites were moved on, blocks were put on others. Most tellingly however, the NIHE located a wet hostel in the Sailortown area which threatened this development and justified it on the basis that there was no demand for housing in the area. I feel that this indicates a lack of committment to addressing the waiting list crisis and that is why the criticism is in my view reasonable.

  • Shore Road Resident

    According to a letter in today’s Irish News, the St Pat’s and St Joseph’s proposal for dealing with housing shortages and lack of provision for the vulnerable in North Belfast is… to demolish the homeless hostel in Sailortown!
    You couldn’t make it up.

  • Crow

    I’m not from Belfast but have a fairly decent knowledge of the geography of the place. However, I’ve never been able to quite figure out where precisely Tiger’s Bay is located. Can someone clarify for me?

  • corcaigh

    Anyone down here wondering how to stop Sinn Fein should have a look at this website posting and this whole sorry story. The whole thing is just depressing – feeding the sense of victimhood in these ghettoes, trying to expand them, measure political progress on the number of new nationalist streets that are built…

    Is no one except this Newton suggesting to people that they’d be better off getting the f+++ out of these holes and trying to build a better life somewhere else??

  • fair_deal

    Crow

    The Tiger’s Bay name was historically not all the area it now applies to. It only applied to a few streets. When the army moved in in the early 1970’s they picked up the name Tiger’s Bay and applied it to the entire area. So its official use and by the media led to its adoption as a name for the entire area. The same happened in the Village area in south Belfast

    Its boundaries are the Limestone Road, York Street, Brougham Street, Duncairn Avenue and Halliday’s Road. North Queen Street cuts through it.

  • kensei

    “Anyone down here wondering how to stop Sinn Fein should have a look at this website posting and this whole sorry story. The whole thing is just depressing – feeding the sense of victimhood in these ghettoes, trying to expand them, measure political progress on the number of new nationalist streets that are built…”

    That’s certainly one spin. Or let’s try another – Sinn Féin are hearing a lot of complaints from it’s constituency in the area about difficultly getting houses, and the suspicion that it is sectarian based and are voicing those concerns at higher levels. And because they address there voters concerns, they are rewarded electorally. People who wonder why there is apathy in politics in other places may want to pay attention.

    “Is no one except this Newton suggesting to people that they’d be better off getting the f+++ out of these holes and trying to build a better life somewhere else??”

    Yeah, turn around and tell your voters that “you live in a sh*thole and should get out ASAP”. Good god I don’t even know here to start.