A Lesson in Sectarian scare-mongering

To North Belfast, where the proposal to transform an old Mill complex into an apartment block has rallied all strands of loyalism and unionism in opposition to new housing for the densely populated catholic Ardoyne area.

The pretence for the opposition is that the new apartments will remove the buffer zone which currently separates nationalist and unionist areas in the region (not actually correct, as the illustration contained in the article clearly indicates that a Commercial Development buffer is planned for, and there will remain two security gates, with access to the proposed apartment complex through these gates.)

Opposition to the re-location of the businesses in the Mill to the front of the Crumlin Road (the aforementioned Commercial buffer)would appear to be on the grounds that this would facilitate republicans intent on attacking protestant homes in Woodvale. (Indeed, while the article makes reference to attacks on protestant homes in the area, it omits to mention similar attacks on catholic homes in the area.)

Yet Dunnes Stores- as well as the nearby petrol station- would regularly be used by people from both communities. The objection to the relocation of a public house to the front of the road is something that clearly would require more careful consideration, but the sentiments expressed at the meeting reveal a deeper objection to this proposal.

It also has to be said that this would not be the only area of north Belfast in which a commercial buffer existed between the two communities- just down the road at Carlisle Circus, a similar buffer maintains the peace between the Shankill and New Lodge areas.

It is only natural that residents living along any of Belfast’s interface areas would feel particularly anxious about any proposed changes to the landscape around them, and their voices deserve to be heard if only because, in both communities, these are the people still living with the reality of base sectarianism in this city.

However, whatever outcome awaits this particular application, the frightening aspect to this episode is the assumption behind a number of prominent speakers’ comments that this is all part of a devious plan by Romanists to ‘expand their area’ at the expense of unionists. As an exercise in sectarian scare-mongering, it may prove useful but factually, of course, they are simply wrong.

Nationalist areas in north Belfast have long waiting lists for housing, but that would not seem to be being addressed by this development, which is private and therefore more likely to attract middle-class buyers (something Sinn Fein’s Margaret McClenaghan pointed out in an Irish News article on the issue Wednesday.) Of course, the development will have the knock-on effect of relieving some of the pressure for housing in nationalist north Belfast, albeit in the private residential market.

Here are some of the quotes from a public rally in the loyalist Woodvale area on the matter, carried in the Shankill Mirror: “Eric Cairns is a very upmarket housing agent and it may well be that they are targeting Roman Catholic ‘Yuppie’ types. All Nationalist areas are trying to bring back professionals in a bid to develop and expand their communities, basically this is part of a longer term programme building up and expanding Ardoyne.” [Cllr. Nelson McCausland.]

Billy Patterson, Greater Shankill Community Council: “For years Protestants have stood idly by and let Nationalists develop their areas, but if they put up a reasonable and logical fight and make things clear and concise there is no reason why this cannot be stopped.”

“Ardoyne are basically looking to expand in every direction, and another scandal is that the land at Hillview, which was meant to be for commercial use only, has also been sold off so is now out of the control of government.” [Cllr Nelson McCausland again.]

“We have to hit back at this very disturbing proposal and stand side by side and fight this side by side.” [Cllr Frank McCoubrey]

So is the objection simply to this particular housing proposal? Or is it to the re-location of the business units? Or is it, as insinuated by some of the comments, more about attempting to frustrate efforts to address the serious problem of inadequate housing provision in nationalist areas of north Belfast?

  • Crataegus

    I assume that this is the Flax Centre.

    The real storey here is the appalling waste of money in the form of grants that were poured into this complex complete with its theatre. It was a time when men of the cloth were favoured over others in such areas as others were thought to potentially have dubious connections. There was even a grant aided mushroom farm if the rumours are correct. I heard tales of people shovelling horse muck up several storeys but that may be a bit of an exaggeration (has to be). If this site is being taken over by a developer does the public purse get any refund? Millions were spent here!!!!!

    Also as far as I know several people were murdered in this complex and the surrounding area really isn’t stable. You describe commercial buffer zones if they are gated they may work but if you are relying on ‘shops fronting the street type developments they just will not work. The area is volatile, there are protection rackets and intimidation. That is why the lower Crumlin Road is in the state it is.

    My own view is that you would actually need a development plan for that whole section of the Crumlin Road from Ardoyne shops down and into town along Clifton Street. Need a similar one along York Road. If you do that you will be able to address these issues rationally if you don’t you will simply get piecemeal development. It is the only way to create proper effective buffer zones.

    As for luxury and professional use as far as I am aware the intention is for a lot of smallish apartments. Also many of the flats in North Belfast are housing growing East European, and Asian populations.

    That said what is prompting the Unionists is the electoral head count.

  • Kevin

    These Cllrs should be focusing on more important things, like the earlier post about the Suffering Children. With this quality of leadership the Loyalist people will never get out of their self imposed misery. How will McCoubrey hit back?… another blocade of the Holy Cross! Do they ever stop their complaining?

  • egroeg

    “That said what is prompting the Unionists is the electoral head count.”

    Do you mean approval by Tony Blair’s government of positive gerrymandering in favour of renting homes to Catholic Republican-nationalist s over Potestant Loyalist -Unionists?

  • Kenny

    Crataegus

    I agree with you on both counts.

    Unfortunately, the real motivation for this protest is purely an anti-Catholic sectarian headcount.

    I also think that a larger scale redevelopment of that area would be a better suggestion.

    Egroeg

    Gerrymandering against Protestants – yeah, right.

    This opposition includes a high profile UDA man who helped to organise the disgusting attacks on young children at Holy Cross, and also stood on stage while UDA men fired live weapons in the air.

    So he couldn’t possibly have a sectarian motive then.

  • Cynic

    It’s not just sectarianism, it’s politics too.

    Ardoyne is crying out for more housing but electorally the North Belfast constitency is finely balanced. Nationalists also want to maximise the Catholic vote by encouraging as many developments as possible to keep nationalists in the area. The Loyalists want to keep them out because it risks (from their perspective) tilting the balance.

    And why, given the changing times we are living in, are we allowing planning developments that build in a buffer zone so both sides dont actually have to eyeball each other? All this does is reinforce the mindset where they can live secure in their own little physical and mental ghettos and pretend and avoid the uncomfortable idea that they have to live together.

  • DK

    “the North Belfast constitency is finely balanced”

    Really?

    2001 general election: Nationalist vote = 47%, unionist = 53%, others 1%
    2005 general election: Nationalist vote = 45%, unionist = 53%, Alliance 1%, others 1%

    I don’t know who the hell would want to live in the new “luxury” apartments though. Maybe it will be a “gated” community. Maybe it will even be mixed!!!!

  • Bemu s e d

    Astonishing story – interesting to see if Fair Deal or anyone else could even try to defend this revolting display of medieval b i g o t r y….

  • aquifer

    The prods should ask why the big housing sites on the Shankill stand empty.

  • jfd

    I look at Northern Ireland 2006 and if it wasn’t so ‘sad’ – in both the pathetic and depressing sense of the word – it’d be funny.

    It’d the only place in the world where developing a block of apartments is seen as a ‘political’ or warlike act.

    As for why in a nationalist area rather than a loyalist area I would wager the ‘protection’ costs are lower on that side of the ‘interface’.

  • mnob

    Call them names, demonise them, pretend they’re different from ‘us’ and you dont have to address the real issues.

    They act that way because they are ‘bad’ people, so no talking to them will work so us ‘good’ people will sit on the sidelines and roll our eyes rather than actually wondering what it is that ‘we’ are doing to provoke this behaviour.

  • POL

    Seems to be very like their defence of the sectarian thugs who continuosly attacked a simimar development close to sandy row.Seems very sinister in an area that is crying out for a catholic housing projects.

    Problem for McCoubrey,McCausland etc is that this is a private development and they cannot depend on their old sectarian ally the NIHE to deliberately apply their policy of no new builds for Nationalists in north belfast.

    Besides the piece in the Shankill Mirror is an excellent example of partisan reportage,i wonder will the hate daily ireland bloggers be on in their multitudes condemning this rag.

  • egroeg 

    Kenny,

    Reports on TV, radio and by the media re the Holy Cross blatant sectarian incident was a reaction to electoral head count gerrymandering in North Belfast, but not gerrymandering itself.

    Similar, but much larger and more violent sporatic sectarian reactions happened against electoral head count gerrymandering in Derry/Londonderry at the start of the troubles 35 years ago.

    Gerrymandering happens in many countries and not just Northern Ireland. In EIRE its called “Tullymandering” The main type is a controversial form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage. Two other types are “Packing and cracking” but one very interesting recent case in England was the gerrymandering for the benifit of the Tory party by Dame Shirley Porter heiress to the Tesco empire. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering

    What is happening in North Belfast is a Less descriptive representation of Gerrymandering. In the Oldpark Electoral area there are 4 Rep/Nat to 2 Unionist City council seats. If the 2 Unionists ( Cobain & McCausland ) seats were lost to Rep/Nat councillors and just one rep/nat seat was to be won in the Court electoral area (Crumlin) Belfast City council would have a majority of Republican Nationalists. Finally if the North Belfast Westminister seat was won by a rep/nat at the next elections and held on to West and South Belfast. The City of Belfast would be a republican-Irish nationalist City for its first time since partition, and the gerrymandering which is happening in North Belfast today , is helping towards that final day happening.

  • If there is such a serious shortage of housing for nationalists, I have the perfect solution. Their idealogical motherland to the south has an excess of housing at the moment or so I’m led to believe. Why not clear off to the beloved Celtic Tiger economic Nirvana and leave the pro-Union population in peace once and for all, hmmm???

  • Yokel

    1. This looks like a private development when what the areas need is decent public housing stock

    2. It won’t go ahead anyway, one way or another

  • fearganainm

    always with the ethnic cleansing, eh Vance?

  • Butterknife

    Could David Vance be a troll in disguise? lol

  • Butterknife

    Seriously there is good and bad on both sides, but in my opinion, the worst kind are those that stay, just about, on this side of it and still spread poisen.

  • egroeg

    David, thats the problem rep/nat’s want a United Ireland . They know they can’t win it military, or politically. Furthermore they have given up articles 2 & 3.

    Now rep/nats are trying a different tactic. All those new millionaires from EIRE celtic tiger are buying up properties, land, and business’s in the north quicker than you can say jack Robinson. One rumour circulating is that they own 40% of the property on the Shankill Road. No doubt if any housing projects goes up in Flax mill or the surrounding area the owners will come from money from EIRE.

    It wouldn’t suprise me many hard line loyalists on the Shankill are or will be shortly paying their rents indirectly to SF who have bought the properties with laundered money stashed away in banks in the South.

  • POL

    David Vance:

    If there is such a serious shortage of housing for nationalists, I have the perfect solution. Their idealogical motherland to the south has an excess of housing at the moment or so I’m led to believe. Why not clear off to the beloved Celtic Tiger economic Nirvana and leave the pro-Union population in peace once and for all, hmmm???

    How about we just move in to loyalist areas and occupy the derilect houses, you know the ones that protestants have voluntarily vacated because they dont want to bring their children up in estates ravaged by drug dealers,pimps and extortionists. OR even better we could use them houses that that are vacant due to loyalist infighting.

    However Dave, you could also take your own advice and move across the water and join other loyalist icons such as coco and johnnnnnnny

  • kloot

    Their idealogical motherland to the south has an excess of housing at the moment or so I’m led to believe.

    Your not up to speed there Davo. The massive boom in building in the south is to make up for the LACK of housing, plus the obvious greed factor

  • eichmann

    why not euthanize the neanderthal bigots on shankill who will always pose threat to cattholics, peace process or no…

  • austin

    egroeg ‘ one rumour circulating is that they own 40% of the property on the Shankill Road.’

    As 72% of the housing in the Shankill remains social housing (NIHE, Clanmil, Filor Housing Associations in particular) this exposes your statement as scare-mongering nonsense.

    However I can exclusively reveal that the chickens sold in the KFC branch at the bottom of the Shankill are indeed infiltrators from Eire.

  • trev

    “As 72% of the housing in the Shankill remains social housing (NIHE, Clanmil, Filor Housing Associations in particular) this exposes your statement as scare-mongering nonsense”

    Not llike unionists to be telling lies and scare- mongering to stoke up sectarian tensions !!!

  • egroeg

    “As 72% of the housing in the Shankill remains social housing (NIHE, Clanmil, Filor Housing Associations in particular) this exposes your statement as scare-mongering nonsense.”

    What I have been informed is far from being nonsence Austin. Many of these houses have been privately bought by sitting tenants and then sold on again. Its here where certain companies with addresses in EIRE have been buying them up and renting them out again.

  • If it is true that the foreign fenians are buying up the Ulster protestant land piece by piece, then it should be treated as a de-facto declaration of war, and the free State should suffer everything that it entails.

  • eranu

    funny enough i went up to the flax centre a couple of weeks ago to look at an apartment. really nice loft style apartment and about 30-40 grand cheaper than others around the city.

    unfortunately its in a scary ghetto of an area, murals everywhere, spides galore… there is no way anyone in their right mind would want to live there. no upwardly mobile person is going to move into the area. i see why east belfast is so popular now. i think they’d be better keeping the buildings for businesses.

  • egroeg

    “As 72% of the housing in the Shankill remains social housing (NIHE, Clanmil, Filor Housing Associations in particular) this exposes your statement as scare-mongering nonsense.”

    If I am scare mongering Austin, do you accuse Steven MaCaffery of the same when he reported in the Irish News that: “35 per cent of the Shankill” has been bought-up by Dublin property investors.?

    Enclosed is full article:

    Politicians blamed for ‘failing’ loyalist community volunteers

    By Steven McCaffery (Irish News 30.9.06)

    The NIO says Protestant working class communities are broken and need to be fixed. But in meeting loyalist community groups that previously avoided the media,

    Steven McCaffery finds a vibrant network of volunteer workers who say the problem does not lie with them, but with the government

    LOYALIST communities are inward looking, underprivileged, locked in the past and happy to stay there. That’s the common stereotype.

    It is an image that Secretary of State Peter Hain and his NIO ministers say they want to consign to history.

    But his decision to launch funding packages specifically for Protestant areas has raised suspicions that government is involved in a political exercise aimed at ‘buying off’ loyalist paramilitaries, rather than tackling poverty.

    At a special meeting of community groups from loyalist heartlands they welcomed any hope of new funding but there were suspicions expressed about “mainstream politicians”.

    followed in the next post”

  • egroeg 

    Followed from my last post.

    “It was claimed “they have been happy to keep us where we are”. There were sharp criticisms of Ian Paisley’s DUP but above all there was a determination to take control of their own future, free of stereotypes.

    “The British are indifferent to us. They have no vested interest in us,” said one speaker.

    “The ‘felt experience’ in Protestant communities is one of feeling lost and one of feeling displaced….”

    Derek Poole of the Centre for Contemporary Christianity was invited to the event as one of a group of ‘Critical Friends’ – individuals asked to challenge the conference with alternative points of view. But the audience reacted positively to his vision of the way forward.

    Since the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, he said, “our old animosities” are of no interest to the outside world. London and Dublin are at peace, “the Anglo-Irish war is over’’.

    Multi-culturalism, he added, was changing Ireland north and south and “in the economic imagination of the republic, the border does not exist”. He estimated “35 per cent of the Shankill” has been bought-up by Dublin property investors.

    He told delegates from Rathcoole, New Mossley, Larne, Monkstown and Carrickfergus that he believed they could create a new context for themselves that related to “Northern Ireland in particular”, but which was also “all-Ireland”.

    His closing remarks ended the fourth conference of the East Antrim Conflict Transformation Forum [EACTF] – a network of community groups formed with the support of Billy Mitchell, a former UVF prisoner who later dedicated his life to community development.

    Before his recent death, he encouraged cross-community work. His funeral attracted leading loyalists but also high-profile republicans and public sector groups who had come to credit him with building bridges, despite his violent past.

    “When he left prison, Billy dedicated his time to paying back his community. He felt it was a duty,” Kelly Haggarty, project manager for the Forum said.

    The 29-year-old is one of a team of 250 community workers, although she is the only one who is paid for her work.

    The others take part in a wide range of programmes, calming tensions at interface areas or organising clubs for the elderly but with a minimum of financial support.

    “It is unfair these people are out four or five nights a week and giving over their weekends without pay,’’ she said.

    A member of the Irish government’s department of foreign affairs who had worked on cross-community groups with Billy Mitchell attended the event, while the NIO, funding bodies and police also attended.

    Sharlene Anderson from Rathcoole Transformation told delegates how parents were added to the group’s mobile phone network so they could help deal with teenage behaviour that might otherwise have attracted the police.

    She said a “big brother” approach to monitoring unruly teenagers had been replaced with a “big momma’’ strategy: “We gave it back to the parents to deal with it in their own homes and it worked.”

    Her group was also involved in successful efforts to ease tension at Carnmoney cemetery where loyalists had staged intimidating protests against the Catholic community’s annual Blessing of the Graves service.

    Another community worker, Phil Hamilton, noted how elsewhere volunteers had monitored flashpoint areas, clocking up “500 man-hours in five months” in their efforts to prevent sectarian violence. He complained that despite such efforts it was often politicians who took the credit: “But the people on the ground know who does the hard work.”

    “When it comes to mainstream politicians – and I will say the DUP – every time something is brought along [by us], the answer is no. It’s always no. [But] we keep voting them back in again…,” a colleague added.

    But the delegates concentrated on discussing their own work.

    In Carrickfergus there was a successful sports project, which now needed a pitch to train its growing football club. Monkstown had youth groups and an employment skills course, while in Larne delegates highlighted a significant decrease in sectarian tension.

    There was a strong focus on commemorating important elements of loyalist culture, including the Battle of the Somme and the marching tradition. But there were also projects aimed at reducing the use of controversial paramilitary flags and murals.

    to be continued

  • Nestor Makhno

    Interesting to consider the long term implications of this.

    Belfast’s population is falling – even with inward migration – the city is severely underpopulated. We have a city with the structures in place for 400,000 – but with an actual population of only about 270,000.

    At first glance this might seem like quite a nice siutation – but it’s not. It means schools, industry, retail and public infrastructre all operate under capacity – making our city very uncompetitive.

    So we need MORE people to come back to Belfast – about 130,000 to be exact. We need our politicans to be thinking about how they can achieve this – and battling over small areas of contested space is not very encouraging.

  • egroeg 

    continued from my last post:

    “The conference discussed positive contacts with the Irish government and detailed productive cross community trips to Dublin. One speaker urged delegates to visit the city’s Kilmainham Gaol, where the 1916 rebels were executed, explaining it had helped him understand Ireland’s nationalist history.

    Forum chairman Bill Adamson is also a member of the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party but he said the roles were unconnected, arguing there was no party-political agenda to the forum’s work.

    And while the government has highlighted the continuing activity of loyalist paramilitaries, he said the Forum was keen to rid communities of violence and build a new future.

    Loyalists, he said, wanted to improve their own communities but had the confidence to deal with nationalists and with Dublin, without diluting firmly held beliefs.

    “This is the 21st century,” he said.

    “The loyalist people I come in contact with would say we are into a new era. People have to do things differently, they have to engage and they have to have dialogue.”

  • kensei

    “The City of Belfast would be a republican-Irish nationalist City for its first time since partition, and the gerrymandering which is happening in North Belfast today , is helping towards that final day happening.”

    What kind of crack are on? The expansion of the North Belfast seat takes in MORE unionists (Rathcoole?). Loads of people moanong about it here.

  • Rafa Benitez

    egroeg Now rep/nats are trying a different tactic. All those new millionaires from EIRE celtic tiger are buying up properties, land, and business’s in the north quicker than you can say jack Robinson. One rumour circulating is that they own 40% of the property on the Shankill Road. No doubt if any housing projects goes up in Flax mill or the surrounding area the owners will come from money from EIRE.

    It wouldn’t suprise me many hard line loyalists on the Shankill are or will be shortly paying their rents indirectly to SF who have bought the properties with laundered money stashed away in banks in the South.

    What a fantastic conspiracy theory! The only thing wrong with it is that money from the ROI is being invested in much, much more up market areas of Belfast, such as the titanic quarter (built with money from Dublin). Why would any southerner want to buy a sh!thole council house in a drug infested quagmire that’s been run by a bunch of skinheads?

  • egroeg

    “What kind of crack are on? The expansion of the North Belfast seat takes in MORE unionists (Rathcoole?). Loads of people moanong about it here. ”

    kensie,

    Rathcoole is not in North Belfast but is an electoral area within the Newtownabby Borough Council, and not the Belfast City Council.

    I recommend you write to both these councils and request they send you a 2006 booklet which will explain their Electoral Areas.

  • egroeg

    ‘Why would any southerner want to buy a sh!thole council house in a drug infested quagmire that’s been run by a bunch of skinheads?

    Rafa Benitez

    Just as such housing investors would want to buy similar houses in similar areas of Dublin , Cork and Limerick..

    They dont intend living in them, just make a profit. Who lives in the houses is totally irrevelant to them as long they are on state benifit. here in Northern Ireland. All the rents for these properties are paid for by the British taxpayer and go straight into any southern investor’s bank balance.

  • kensei

    “Rathcoole is not in North Belfast but is an electoral area within the Newtownabby Borough Council, and not the Belfast City Council.

    I recommend you write to both these councils and request they send you a 2006 booklet which will explain their Electoral Areas.”

    I was talking about the expansion of the Westminster seat (and by proxy Assembly seats), which WILL include Rathcoole, completely blowing the thrust of your argument – that Belfast would be a completely Nationalist den of sin. Unsure what the precise status of the councils will be post super councils. Is anyone?

    I was also talking about proposed and likely changes for the future – hence “expansion” – I suggest you pay attention.

  • Rafa Benitez

    egroeg,

    I haven’t heard of any southerners buying any sh!tholes down here either! Why go all the way to Belfast when you can buy ‘prime’ property in places like Corduff in Blanchardstown (fondly known as ‘little Beruit’)or the entire city of Limerick. That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to me!

  • empey head

    Rafa,

    Its the usual story-if in doubt, blame the taigs(northern or southern variety, it doesn’t really matter…)

  • kloot

    If I am scare mongering Austin, do you accuse Steven MaCaffery of the same when he reported in the Irish News that: “35 per cent of the Shankill” has been bought-up by Dublin property investors.?

    So what if people from the ROI are buying up property in NI. What possible meaning can you attach to this other then the fact that the property is being bought for profit $$$. The Irish are the biggest purchasers of commercial property in the UK, and one of the biggest investors in property across Europe. You cant blame people for being shrewd investors. Im sure their would be an equal amount of cross border investment if the NI economy wasnt in such a shambles.

    The Scare Mongering label comes in if meanings other than profit are attached to the buying of this property. Investors operate for profit and for profit only. Politics should only feature when bribery is required. It is an open property market in NI, just like the rest of the UK and for that matter the rest of Europe.

    Should I be worried that Unionists are trying to take over the local media in the ROI just because John Taylor is buying up the local news papers? I dont think so.

  • austin

    Kloot,
    interesting banner headline but not actually specific to housing as you have failed to notice.

    The last NIHE statistics showed that there are only 600 privately-rented dwellings in the Greater Shankill out of a total stock of approx. 10,000 dwellings-6% of the housing there is owner-occupied.

    In light of these statistics, the scare-mongering I referred to was the earlier poster who stated that 40% of the houses were in the ownership of Southern Investors.

  • austin

    apologies – meant to say that 6% of the housing stock was privately-rented.

  • egroeg

    ” your argument – that Belfast would be a completely Nationalist den of sin. ”

    Having wrote republican nationalist majority . What may I ask has a majority to do with sin?

    Shape of NI ‘super councils’ emerging

    “Belfast city council is thought likely to be retained”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5264164.stm

  • austin

    ‘What I have been informed is far from being nonsence Austin. Many of these houses have been privately bought by sitting tenants and then sold on again. Its here where certain companies with addresses in EIRE have been buying them up and renting them out again.’

    Wrong Egoreg-In the scenario you have outlined these dwellings would no longer be counted as social housing units but rather would be seen as private rental dwellings, of which this tenure type is only 6% of the total housing stock in the Shankill.
    Therefore the 40% Southern-Ownership myth is just that- a myth and a dangerous one at that.

  • Greenflag

    Here’s some more ‘scaremongering ‘ from the Guardian . One presumes it’s less of a concern for Unionists and Loyalists than North Belfast equivalent only because it’s electorally insignificant ?

    ‘The countdown has begun to the disbanding of 3,000 serving RIR members. Since September 1, they have not been deployed outside their barracks, and today a final review of all three battalions will be staged in Belfast in front of senior politicians and dignitaries. The first tranche of redundancies will come in December.

    A compensation package costing £250m has been agreed. A further 1,100 civilian support staff will also lose their jobs. The final phase of post-Troubles demilitarisation is due to be completed by next summer, when Operation Banner, military support for the police, comes to an end. It has been described as the longest running campaign in the army’s history. Only 5,000 troops will be left in the province.

    Accepted by most as inevitable, the “normalisation” process is raising concerns that demobilisation could trigger a fresh wave of emigration from border areas where having a record of military service may be an impediment to finding a new job. Eager to see Northern Ireland shed its paramilitary past, RIR soldiers still harbour suspicions about dissident republicans and rural IRA units which may have retained weaponry in defiance of the Provisionals’ leadership.’

  • Crataegus

    On North Belfast generally the development land and under population is in the Unionist areas. I have interests in several areas but am dammed if I would risk development at this stage and the reason is simple it is the murderous Loyalist criminals that infest the areas. It is not worth the hassle. In the past a colleague came under severe pressure and I have had a fair share of threats. Until the areas sort themselves out I will not risk one additional penny. I have no doubt if the strangle hold was removed that the protestant population would again increase but who wants to share space with drug dealers, extortionists and pimps?

    Recently I have driven round places like Tigers Bay and you will see few places with more perfectly good houses boarded up. The question is how do we remove the problem elements so that those who need houses have access to them?

    It is only anecdotal but my impression is there is a fast increasing immigrant population in North Belfast and that they are now occupying a significant proportion of the flats along the lower Antrim Road and this is displacing mainly low income Nationalist populations and increasing the overall demand in those areas. The population movements may be complex.

    There is no doubt that we need to increase the population of inner Belfast and there is massive potential in N. Belfast but it will take a coordinated approach. As a developer I need to know if I am working and investing in the area that I am going to be part of an overall project and that I will get effective protection against criminals. This is where the issues surrounding collusion really start to bite.

    With regards the Flax centre it would be useful to look at the previous track record of the developer before we start eulogising about quality and luxury. Everything an estate agent sells is luxury.

    Councillors need to get themselves out of the trenches town planning should not be about head counts. If there was an overall time related plan for that part of the city with large and small developers on board, you could make a massive difference to that entire area to the benefit of everyone. You would need to think along the lines of relocating government offices, targeting grants to the area and perhaps rate holidays. You need something to kick start the local economies. There are few places that have been damaged more by the strife than North Belfast and I think it is a special case.

  • egroeg 

    ” Therefore the 40% Southern-Ownership myth is just that- a myth and a dangerous one at that”

    Austin,
    Then write to the Irish news and tell them they are writing dangerous myths because.that is were ithe information came from.

    .

  • austin

    Have you please got the thread for the article you refer to egroeg?

    Thanks

  • egroeg 

    Have you please got the thread for the article you refer to egroeg?

    Page 2 no 2,3 and 5 posts. The Irish news Article was so long It had to be broken into three posts.

    Politicians blamed for ‘failing’ loyalist community volunteers

    By Steven McCaffery (Irish News 30.9.06)
    “35 per cent of the Shankill” has been bought-up by Dublin property investors.?

  • barnshee

    “Now rep/nats are trying a different tactic. All those new millionaires from EIRE celtic tiger are buying up properties, land, and business’s in the north quicker than you can say jack Robinson. One rumour circulating is that they own 40% of the property on the Shankill Road. No doubt if any housing projects goes up in Flax mill or the surrounding area the owners will come from money from EIRE. ”

    Not a good move– buying property in a state where the great unwashed could tell you “fuck off you don`t own it any more” (Looks at the republic after 1920 if you see what I mean)

  • valenciano

    Kensei, I’d rather suggest that you would be better placed paying attention as Rathcoole has been part of the North Belfast Constituency since the 1996 forum elections. The future expansions are fairly evenly balanced adding the more nationalist southern bit of Glengormley and the loyalist Cloughfern area which pretty much cancel each other out overall.

    The complaints about gerrymandering though are a bit wide of the mark. The current City Council district electoral boundary arrangements actually favour nationalists more than unionists. This is assuming no expansion into Castlereagh/Poleglass/Rathcoole – which would favour Unionists anyway. I’ve no doubt that Cobain et al are motivated by electoral considerations, but that’s an entirely different issue from partisan drawing of electoral boundaries – something which hasn’t happened since the Stormont era.

  • kensei

    “Having wrote republican nationalist majority . What may I ask has a majority to do with sin?”

    Allow me a rhetorical, would you?

    “Not a good move– buying property in a state where the great unwashed could tell you “fuck off you don`t own it any more” (Looks at the republic after 1920 if you see what I mean)”

    What a bizarre world you live in, barnshee. Are you seriously trying to suggest any section of the population here could upset private property rights? The cornerstone of modern society and economy? Balls. The worst “the great unwashed” could do in loyalist areas is force a sale to the government, who would be give market rate, or destrcution of the property in which case the owner would collect the insurance.

    As Crat is trying to point out, the people damaged by such behaviour is the people who live in the areas.

    Also, last time I looked it isn’t 1920.

  • kensei

    “I’ve no doubt that Cobain et al are motivated by electoral considerations, but that’s an entirely different issue from partisan drawing of electoral boundaries – something which hasn’t happened since the Stormont era.”

    I not suggesting that. I’m suggesting that egroeg is talking through his bum when he suggests there is gerrymandering in favour of Nationalim in North Belfast.

    As far as I was aware the NB boundary changes effectively gives Dodss a seat for life.

  • Rafa Benitez

    barnshee “Not a good move– buying property in a state where the great unwashed could tell you “fuck off you don`t own it any more” (Looks at the republic after 1920 if you see what I mean)

    Ho, ho, ho.

    And watch out for them sneaky Germans too, since they were up to no good in the 40’s! The U.S. will also have to be watched, we can’t forget the 1700’s so easily can we! Ha, ha, ha. What bloody year is it and what year do you think it is? We’re talking about private investors trying to make a profit. Not some sneaky fenian scheme to try and steal away all your generously proportioned UlsterWomen!

  • austin

    Egroeg,
    but where are the statistics upon which this estimate is made?

  • Yokel

    Back to the point. The Flax Street development will not go ahead, not in its proposed form, if at all.

  • kensei

    “#

    Back to the point. The Flax Street development will not go ahead, not in its proposed form, if at all. ”

    Because of this? Or other reasons?

  • Egroeg

    Egroeg,
    but where are the statistics upon which this estimate is made?

    Ask the Irish News austin, they published the statement in the public domain.

  • Crataegus

    In a general manner when considering a development proposal it is often useful to look at the track record of the developer, their experience and background. It is often informative to go and look inside some of the other developments they are selling.

    Some developers specialise in cramming them in and in my opinion are building the equivalent of the 19th century back to backs. We are building tomorrows slums. I have seen new apartments that are well less than 50sq.m with living kitchen space that is utterly minimal and ‘loft space for beds’ ie beds stuck up in the roof with a stair into the living room. I have a keen interest in competitors and some developers have got away with ridiculous schemes. Windows into a 600mm x 1200mm yards, bins stored on the way in, screens build in front of windows so they don’t look down into neighbours. I personally believe we should start to impose some minimum spacial standards. When does a living room become a corridor?

    I have also seen amenity space set aside and then build on 4-5 years later and in one recent development a car park which was included in the design of one scheme was never built for as soon as approval was given there was a second application to develop the carpark!

    The flax centre is an important scheme and there is a high demand for accommodation and therefore potentially very high profits for the developer. A 50sq m apartment in that area could fetch say a conservative £100,000. The potential profits are considerable. This scheme will sell out because of a shortage of housing in that area. So in that context it is not unreasonable for us to impose conditions on the developer and maximise the potential gain for society. I don’t want to get into the specifics of someone else’s scheme but political types should set aside considerations of likely voting patterns and ask is there validity in the criticism and could this be better? If we are going to give a developer literally millions by approving it is not unreasonable to expect some social considerations as part of the conditions of approval.

  • POL

    Remember that wee scandal in south belfast about the estate agent who advertised no foreigners need apply.Is this another one?

  • POL

    Siege mentality going GA GA methinks.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Rafa B

    “What bloody year is it and what year do you think it is?”

    We are talking about the re-plantation of Ulster here – unless McCoubrey, McCausland and McClelland can stop it.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    ..well, one thing is different this time – the old mill re-planters are willing to pay for the property.

  • austin

    Egroeg,

    I’ll take that as a ‘don’t know’ then.

  • plato

    Suggestion for people in the Shankill area*:
    1. Go to school and get educated.
    2. Get a job.
    3. Exchange the money you earn from the job for goods and services.

    In that order. Rocket science it ain’t.

    *or any other moaning f*ckers for that matter

  • Crow

    I believe the Nazis call it Lebensraum.

  • Rafa Benitez

    I believe the Nazis call it Lebensraum

    I didn’t know the german for urban development was Lebensraum! You learn something new every day….

  • POL

    At 100k an apartment that rules out any Lebensraum for the shankill lol.Unless they can get a wee loan from their local defenders that is.What would the interest be on one of them wee loans anyway.Guy i worked with (cant walk any more)got a £200 loan(thats what he called it)two years later owed £500 and had a run in with a few baseball bats.Still paying it back, but he says its harder these days due to DLA only paying out once a month.I told him he should`ve went and seen Diane Dodds, but he said he could`nt afford their interest rates either.

  • nmc

    The most telling statement is (IMHO):

    For years Protestants have stood idly by and let Nationalists develop their areas, but if they put up a reasonable and logical fight and make things clear and concise there is no reason why this cannot be stopped

    So it is a problem for Loyalists that Nationalists develop their areas, and this should be stopped by the Loyalist people. Perhaps Loyalists should concentrate on developing their own areas, instead of preventing nationalists developing theirs. Christ. Let me just repeat a bit of that:

    For years Protestants have stood idly by and let Nationalists develop their areas

    Bit of a superiority complex at work perhaps? Thanks for “letting” us develop our own areas, it’s a shame that you’re not going to “let” us do it anymore. I mean, if life gets better for Nationalists it must get worse for Loyalists. That’s Yin Yang right there.

  • Valenciano

    Kensei, I know you weren’t suggesting that, it was Egroeg who was saying that there is gerrymandering against Nationalists in North Belfast: something which isn’t supported by the facts. (Arguably there has never been gerrymandering against Nationalists in Belfast anyway – it was unnecessary given the massive Unionist vote and only happened elsewhere where it was needed e.g. Fermanagh/Derry.)

    Dodds is going to be no safer in North Belfast after the boundary changes which effectively balance out. Still, the Unionist bloc does have at least a 10% lead over the Nationalist, Dodds has the lions share of the unionist vote and is likely to face no more than a paper candidate from the UUP. Meantime there is still enough of a lingering SDLP vote to scupper Gerry Kelly’s chances. I can’t see anything changing there for at least the next decade.