Residents of a Shankill district would appear to be at the end of their tether over fears that dangerous driving in their area could result in a fatality. Unfortunately, nothing new there, I hear you say. But the residents are also claiming that Roads Service’s failure to construct speed ramps outside the Denmark Street Youth Centre is a sectarian act– as one local resident put it: “I feel that these people are discriminating against the people of the lower Shankill. A Protestant child has the same needs as a Catholic one.”
Anyone who has ever been involved with a campaign to improve road safety measures will testify to the frustration experienced when dealing with Roads Service officials who seem to place textbook criteria well above common sense when it comes to making decisions- and don’t get me started on the length of time it actually takes for Roads Service to conduct a survey! So in this regard, I’m all with the residents of the North Boundary Street area.
But the tendency to fall back onto a sectarian motive reminded me of a comment made to me by a community worker based in a protestant working-class area of Belfast. A proud and articulate unionist, the community worker surprised me when remarking that there is a worrying tendency within working-class protestant communities to attribute a pro-republican-catholic/ anti-protestant agenda to any and every decision taken.
I don’t know if this is an observation shared by other political and community activists from within the unionist community. Let me also state that, in my opinion, unionists alone aren’t guilty of identifying a sectarian dimension to decisions where one does not exist; but nevertheless it would be interesting to hear voices from within that community on how such communities can be led beyond the ‘them and us’ mindset.