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.