“A microcosm of the Northern Ireland problem..”

The Northern Ireland Social Development Minister, the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie, recently published a draft Equality Impact Assessment for further consultation.. And, on Hearts and Minds, Julia Paul reported on the complicated political and social dynamic involved in the already lengthy consultation on development plans for the Crumlin Road Gaol/Girdwood Park area of North Belfast. Further complicated, it could be argued, by the involvement of the PPR Project. Also contributing to the report – the DUP, Sinn Féin, and Robin Wilson.

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  • LURIG

    The development of the old Girdwood site is being held up by Unionists who don’t want to see ANY social Catholic housing built in North Belfast. This would affect the delicate electoral boundaries in favour of Nationalists and is in effect gerrymandering by another name. The Housing Executive waiting list in Catholic parts of North Belfast is years for many of them but a few weeks in most Protestant areas. VAST tracks of land lie derelict in Tigers Bay, Westland, Whitewell Road etc and Unionists in tandem with Loyalist elements are determined that it stays that way. This requires an urgent public enquiry.

  • Lurig is grossly exaggerating the amount of vacant land in Unionist areas of North Belfast (vacant land in the Westland? where?) But he is right that the hysterical hate campaign whipped up by the DUP to prevent housing being built on the Girdwood site is naked bigotry at its worst. The DUP moan if houses are built in North Belfast which are likely to be lived in by Catholics. Then they moan about Catholics moving out to Glengormley and Crumlin. Basically, the DUP’s problem seems to be Catholics having anywhere to live at all. Wasn’t it a lot better in the days when they had to live 18 to a hovel with no outside toilet?

  • picador

    Social housing for the Girdwood site. What’s the hold up?

    Oh yeah, Lurig just explained.

  • picador

    Sammy,

    I don’t think Lurig is exaggerating. He has just got the locations of the vacant land wrong!

    There is lots of vacant land / boarded up housing in Lower Oldpark (adjacent to Girdwood), Shankill, Glenbryn, Tigers Bay, Alexander Park Ave. Skegoniell Ave, etc. If you don’t believe it try Google Earth.

    Derelict – that’s the way Nigel Dodds wants to keep north Belfast.

  • LURIG

    I know North Belfast quite well. There is land behind the Westland Fire Station where Loyalists have their bonfire every year as well as many empty houses there. Tigers Bay has dozens of empty houses as do places like Skegoneill Avenue and lower Glandore. Cliftonpark Avenue had a lot of space but it was turned into a massive largely unused Protestant park. A large business park was built at the bottom of Duncairn Gardens as a peaceline buffer zone and to prevent Catholics getting the land. There was a lot of land in and around the Docks which the Housing Executive could have bought but delayed in doing so. There MUST be a public enquiry in to all of this.

  • picador

    Lurig,

    It doesn’t need an enquiry. It needs social housing built and allocated on the basis of need. It needs a Housing Minister who won’t take No for an answer.

  • LURIG

    Picador

    I agree with most of that but when housing needs are being denied on religious and political grounds THAT requires an enquiry. As someone has already stated, EVERY Catholic housing scheme in North Belfast, whether public or private seems to attract Unionist/Loyalist protest and opposition. It is a deeply sectarian. Take a walk around the New Lodge which has probably the worst social housing ANYWHERE in this islands. Families are being housed in high density damp high rise, rat infested shoe box flats. It is a disgrace and when one sees Margaret Ritchie’s department buy up luxurious private developments in Lurgan for social housing there people in places like the New Lodge start to get angry. The European Commission and United Nations Human Rights Committees should urgently investigate the square mile of the New Lodge. The conditions there are like Dublin’s Ballymun in the 70’s and 80’s and are leading to despair which in turn is leading to large scale prescription drug dependency, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and criminal activity. Just ask the PSNI, the New Lodge/lower Antrim Road is a NO go area most of the week with MASSIVE anti social problems and crime. It is all a domino effect.

  • picador

    Lurig,

    No doubt, it is one big gerrymander and it’s happening a couple of hundred yards from my front door. What we need is a Housing Minister who won’t take ‘no’ from the DUP and an Executive that meets.

  • Dec

    Lurig

    Tigers Bay has dozens of empty houses as do places like Skegoneill Avenue and lower Glandore.

    Glandore is a nationalist area. There is one house house at the junction of Skegoneil Avenue which is derelict due to being repeatedly attacked by loyalists who were affronted by a couple of Catholics moving in thus making it untenable for anyone to live there. However your wider point about the amount of unused/derelict housing in loyalist areas is correct. The problem is that both communiities have different housing needs. Nationalists require space for housing whilst Unionists require better housing conditions (to put it bluntly). However trying to get the NIHE to publicly recognise that is another matter. The DUP campaign against Girdwood is an old trick they’ve tried before – the development at the Dunmore Stadium site being a recent example.

  • DK

    Lurig – you would seriously build a (very small) nationalist housing estate behind the westland road fire station! Are you insane – there would barely be room for the inevitable peace line.

    Basically there isn’t room inside Belfast for any more housing estates beyond the odd apartment block (like the new one on the limestone road) – unless you are planning to take out one of the parks or shopping centres (as for Duncairn Gardens, it is a peaceline buffer and also provides jobs – but you’d rather have conflict and extra unemployed foot-soldiers I suppose).

    Best thing for the New Lodge would be to demolish the bad housing (the tower blocks) and re-house on the outskirts of Belfast somewhere. But then that would move a whole load of SF voters out of North Belfast, and we can’t have that, can we?

  • Chris Donnelly

    As Sammy points out, Unionist politicians have often got themselves into a paranoid tizzy due to wild sectarian assumptions about the electoral repercussions of addressing housing needs in nationalist areas of Belfast.

    The history of Lenadoon and Poleglass/ Twinbrook on the other side of town suggests this isn’t exclusive to north Belfast- in the case of the latter, unionist councillors in Lisburn threatened to prevent the bins from being collected from Poleglass homes if the houses were used to ‘house’ catholics (and now they’ve the temerity to start a campaign to keep Poleglass, Twinbrook and Lagmore in Lisburn Council!)

    Listening to Nelson McCausland’s utterances on this matter, I see we’ve made little progress in the 30 years or so since….

  • Dec

    Basically there isn’t room inside Belfast for any more housing estates

    Actually there is – the Girdwood site for starters (and may I suggest the waste of space that is Dunmore TA centre). Or have you missed the entire point of this thread?

    But then that would move a whole load of SF voters out of North Belfast, and we can’t have that, can we?

    The problem with that approach is finding a site on the outskirts of Belfast where the local Unionists won’t complain about the influx of outsiders (like Dunmurray, Crumlin, Glengormley, Antrim etc). However your overall point about the forced eviction of Catholics is an interesting one.

  • Democratic

    So is the main focus here from Lurig etc a humanitarian call to address the need for social housing for Catholics (only of course) or a cynical political grab at tipping the electoral balance away from Unionists in their own backyards – I certainly know which way it looks from here. I wonder would Lurig be one of the boys likely to leave in the proposed “Catholic houses” on the wastegrounds of Tiger’s Bay, Westland etc – I doubt it……

  • Dec

    So is the main focus here from Lurig etc a humanitarian call to address the need for social housing for Catholics (only of course)

    Democratic

    Whilst it’s obviously too late to prevent your MOPEry please bear in mind the point about how the two communities having seperate housing needs: Nationalists need more housing (check the makeup of NIHE waiting lists in North Belfast) whilst Unionists require better housing. However, if you want to ignore the facts and wrap yourself in the comforting embrace of a sectarian paranoid fantasy that’s your call.

  • Democratic

    Sure Dec – you got me there – it was my comments that had the sectarian overtones…..
    Nice avoid on my point though……..

  • DK

    Dec “However your overall point about the forced eviction of Catholics is an interesting one.”

    Now who’s missing the point. Lurig says the towers are bad. Solution is to demolish and re-house. The re-housing could be in a brand new tower I suppose, or on some un-built estate (is girdwood big enough?) Or outside central Belfast.

    Or should I say that your point on forcing catholics to live in squalid conditions is an interesting one.

    However we all, including me, have missed a somewhat larger point that we shouldn’t be trying to build ghettoes at the behest of SF/DUP but should be trying to encourage more mixed housing. The recent life & times survey shows that most people would prefer that, but it would certainly not be in the interests of the politicians.

  • Dec

    Nice avoid on my point though……..

    What ‘point’ did I avoid?

    it was my comments that had the sectarian overtones

    Yes, especially the accusation that Catholics want to swamp ‘Unionist in their own backyards’.

  • Democratic

    Yawn Dec – I asked would the boyos on here identifying wasteground in areas like Tiger’s Bay,
    the Westland etc as evidence of how Catholics are being discriminated against in being catered for in new build social housing in North Belfast be prepared to live in “Catholic houses” in such places….furthermore Lurig’s own post and Chris Donnelly’s suggests their interest is as much in their opinion of Unionist councillors stopping the tipping the electoral balance as anything else – you yourself actually argued more reasonably about the whole issue and I must say my comments were not directed at you nor were they directed at Catholics in general…..
    BTW – The Shankill area is right on the border between North & West Belfast and is need of urgent social housing also – not all Protestant needs are upgrades – and for Lurig’s information it was recently commented that some of the older houses in the Village area of Belfast(some of which still have outside toilets!) are the infact the “worst” on the island….

  • picador

    Democratic,

    Large areas of the north inner city are laid to waste because an unholy alliance of unionist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries are determined to block the development of social housing for allocation on the basis of need. I call that discrimination.

  • picador

    Tricolours on the Antrim Road! What is McCausland on about? There is not one flag along the whole length of the road – until the Union Jacks etc. make an appearance in Glengormley (another place where unionist moan about “encroachment”).

  • If you don’t believe it try Google Earth.

    I don’t need to look up Google Earth – I drive through some of those areas every day!

    The “Catholics need more houses/Protestants need better houses” stereotype in North Belfast is still true, but it’s not as true as it used to be. The property bubble of the last number of years has denied a lot of low-income and even middle-income people on both sides of the community the opportunity the prospect of home ownership. As a result, there is less vacancy and dilapidation in Unionist areas than there used to be; not that there still aren’t areas with a lot of vacant land (the Lower Oldpark is probably the most extreme case), but the dynamic has changed enormously. Look at the lack of problem in filling houses in the new developments in the Grove or Upper Ardoyne, for example, or go up to Glencairn and see the way void properties have virtually disappeared over the past number of years in what is probably the least desired residential address in Loyalist North or West Belfast. Similarly, a lot of the vacant land around the bottom of Alexander Park Avenue is scheduled to be built on very soon. The only land in the Westland vacant is the bit behind the fire station which is not zoned for housing, and some of the lots on Glenburn Park which lovely old houses were demolished to build inflills which now probably won’t be built thanks to planning regulations and the credit crunch.

    Also remember that a lot of those new houses have been or are planned to be sold privately. You might be surprised who live in some of them, or perhaps I shouldn’t say that in public lest I stoke some paranoid fuckwit to pipe bomb a Catholic this weekend!

    If people were really serious about not stoking paranoia in unionist areas of North Belfast, they wouldn’t use such overtly territorial terms about new housing in previously ‘neutral’ space like the Girdwood site. It is still true, however, that the lion’s share of people on the housing waiting list in North Belfast are Catholic (about 75%). It is obviously likely that the majority of people moving into it are going to be Catholic, but if one of the many people in housing stress in the Shankill or York Road was prepared to take up the offer of a new house in Girdwood, should we deny them that by marking the area as ‘nationalist’ from day one?

    If there is social housing to be built in Girdwood – which in my view is a moral and political imperative – it shouldn’t be earmarked for ‘nationalists’ but for people in housing need. The housing crisis in North Belfast is the directly caused by bigotry and segregation. I don’t see how you solve that by reinforcing segregation. When I hear Carál ni Chuilín – someone who I respect as sincere in wanting to solve the housing crisis in a fair and equitable way – say that people in the area ‘aren’t ready’ for shared housing, I sort of want to tear my hair out and scream. Who decided people in inner North Belfast ‘aren’t ready’ for shared housing? And when does Carál expect that people will be ‘ready’ for shared housing? And what about the people who stuck their necks out and bought housing in areas perceived as belonging to the ‘other side’ because it was the only way they could by the sort of house they needed (again, you’d be surprised who exactly bought houses in the Lower Antrim Road at the height of the property frenzy)? Are they some sort of freaks forcing people to live in mixed areas when they aren’t ready?

    Allocating housing on the basis of religion and politics was one of the proximate causes of The Troubles. One of the fundamental demands of the Civil Rights movement – and one of the ones that the Unionist government found most difficult to deny – was the demand that housing should be allocated to people on the basis of need, and solely on the basis of need. 40 years later, we still haven’t managed to achieve that. Isn’t it about time we tried?

    Best thing for the New Lodge would be to demolish the bad housing (the tower blocks)

    With the arguable exception of Finn House, the tower blocks aren’t in and of themselves bad housing. If they were used largely for housing single people and childless couples, like the tower blocks at Divis, Rush Park, Cregagh, etc., etc., they would be a useful part of the housing mix in inner North Belfast. Many of the singles and childless couples who live in the tower blocks like living there – they are quiet, well maintained, low rent, have lovely views over the Belfast Hills and often have a lot of neighbourly spirit. The problem is that because of the housing crisis they are being used to house families with children for whom they are inappropriate. There is very little ‘bad’ housing left in the New Lodge. There is an awful lot of overcrowded housing, which is a different question, and Ardoyne is much worse on both counts.

  • Democratic

    Yeah Picador – been through that – where in Tiger’s Bay do you fancy setting up shop then….

  • Dec

    and for Lurig’s information it was recently commented that some of the older houses in the Village area of Belfast(some of which still have outside toilets!) are the infact the “worst” on the island….

    And I fully accept that – I believe there’s a village re-generation plan (though I’m open to correction).

    furthermore Lurig’s own post and Chris Donnelly’s suggests their interest is as much in their opinion of Unionist councillors stopping the tipping the electoral balance as anything else

    It’s hard to argue that’s not the case given the dire shortage of housing. Girdwood’s location is perfect for addressing this shortage. The argument from the likes of Nelson McCauland and the area’s MP about creating interfaces is a poorly assembled smokescreen to disguise the fact they don’t want large groups of taigs getting houses in the constituency. On the other hand the Tiger’s Bay proposal (lurig’s) was preposterous.

  • Tricolours on the Antrim Road! What is McCausland on about?

    Are there’s one, er, aaaah… well, there’s one about, er, well maybe there used to be one, errr…

    Ah, fuck it, there isn’t one between Carlisle Circus and Glengormley Village, now that you mention it. Hey look, who ever said that politics in North Belfast had anything to do with the facts?

  • Democratic

    “If there is social housing to be built in Girdwood – which in my view is a moral and political imperative – it shouldn’t be earmarked for ‘nationalists’ but for people in housing need. The housing crisis in North Belfast is the directly caused by bigotry and segregation. I don’t see how you solve that by reinforcing segregation.”

    Excellent post – needs are needs and should be tackled as such not as Catholic or Protestant needs – if there are waste areas around Unionist areas that could be made into social housing why should such houses be immediately classified in religious terms merely to make new heavily partisan strongholds to ring the old ones – we all know where this leads…..and this also leads on to my point about certain people bringing up the delicate electoral balance being shifted – this seems of more interest to some than the real point at hand….

  • a poorly assembled smokescreen to disguise the fact they don’t want large groups of taigs getting houses in the constituency

    It’s also idiotically self-defeating, as given the depth of housing need locally, I’d imagine that more or less all the people getting rehoused in any Girdwood development from a Catholic background will already be living around Ardoyne, the New Lodge and the Oldpark or Newington, i.e. they already live and vote in North Belfast.

  • Democratic

    “It’s hard to argue that’s not the case given the dire shortage of housing. Girdwood’s location is perfect for addressing this shortage. The argument from the likes of Nelson McCauland and the area’s MP about creating interfaces is a poorly assembled smokescreen to disguise the fact they don’t want large groups of taigs getting houses in the constituency.”
    Well Dec I would like to think that isn’t the case (solely at least) – you may well be right though I suppose – they would have a point about the creation of an interface though – surely there is a 3rd way…..isn’t it time for some sort of integration?

  • Ri Na Deise

    Allocation of housing along sectarian lines is lunacy. Cmon guys give your kids a chance at a better future. Dont keep promoting the divisions of the past.

  • picador

    Democratic,

    Re: Tiger’s Bay.

    I would like to see people living right the way along Duncairn Gardens.

    Re: Integrated Housing

    Given that so much housing in the adjacent lower Oldpark area adjacent to Girdwood cannot be filled it seems reasonable to assume that there is little or no demand from unionists in this area. I would suggest that steps be taken to reduce the scale of the peaceline at Manor Street in preparation for its eventual removal.

    Sammy,

    Very interesting post on housing in the north of the city. Do you know anything of what is planned in Skegoniell Ave / Glandore Avenue / Queen Victoria Gardens. Surely this is the right place to have an integrated housing development.

    Dec,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on Dunmore Park TA base. Get rid of it!

    Lurig,

    The area behind the fire-station at Westland is a marsh.

  • picador

    Ri,

    Allocation of housing along sectarian lines is lunacy. Cmon guys give your kids a chance at a better future. Dont keep promoting the divisions of the past.

    Housing should be allocated on a needs basis. But in north Belfast it isn’t and never has been. Therefore the vast majority of people on the list are Catholic (80% or so). So if you build a totally new estate and allocate it on a needs basis guess what happens?

    With extreme po-faced irony unionist politicians use this argument to oppose new housing developments (as at Dunmore Stadium).

  • Democratic

    “I would like to see people living right the way along Duncairn Gardens”

    Sure I agree totally Picador – but just sticking in overcrowded Catholics from the Ardoyne/New Lodge and calling it housing for an expanding Nationalist population is only going to bring the tensions and violence that comes most summers right to a lot of peoples’ front doors on both sides with no buffer zones – surely integration in this area is the only sensible way forward?…

  • Democratic

    Would I be right in thinking that’s the reason for the abandoned houses in Duncairn Gardens in the first place – why repeat history?….

  • picador

    Democratic,

    You are using the ‘ironic’ argument that I just alluded to to oppose new housing.

    As evidenced by the large numbers of empty houses there is little or no demand from the unionist community in Tigers Bay – ergo new housing on Duncairn Gardens would go to people from the New Logde and Newington where there is high demand. The likelihood that any new housing would go to Catholics in the main does not constitute a valid reason for opposing new housing – it is just perpetuating discrimination. Please stop being disingenuous.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Is there any point in building more ‘social housing’ so that people can just sit around and do nothing in relative comfort. Is there an economic need? Are there so many people in North Belfast who are in productive employment (ie not public sector) within the area and also without homes?

  • picador

    GC,

    You’re right. Everyone is a waster. That’s why house prices on the Antrim Road are ridiculously high.

  • Greenflag

    Unionist Polititican 1:

    ‘Feckin papists still tryin to outbreed and outvote us ‘

    Unionist Councillor 2 :

    ‘Right -why don’t they go back to some place they don’t come from and leave us to go back to someplace we don’t come from either .’

    Unionist Politician 1 :

    ‘Don’t confuse me I was just trying to be non sectarian . I’ve been reading the new bestseller ‘How to not win friends -piss off most people and antagonise the entire non unionist world inside and outside Northern Ireland ‘

    Unionist Politician 2:

    ‘No need to read that shite , Shure we won that battle ages ago . Just stick to the Bible. It teaches ye all ye need to know about how to hate your neighbour especially Fenians ‘

  • Eunice

    “If there is social housing to be built in Girdwood – which in my view is a moral and political imperative – it shouldn’t be earmarked for ‘nationalists’ but for people in housing need. The housing crisis in North Belfast is the directly caused by bigotry and segregation. I don’t see how you solve that by reinforcing segregation.”

    Yes. To be frank, everyone needs to get over themselves. It is true that the community is perhaps not yet ready for complete integration, and that is understandable. However, enforcing sectarian divisions only…enforces sectarian divisions. Yes, that sounds silly, but it needs to be said. The goal should be focused towards building grassroots civic associations among the people and in the meantime, providing housing for those who need better/new housing, not those Catholics who need housing or those unionists or those nationalists or those Protestants. Perhaps I am blind or naive, but is this really so difficult for people to understand?

    The electoral problem implied here is not created by the housing problem, though it is aggravated by it. The entire approach of DUP and SF encourage sectarian division. What needs to happen is better integration of the population, redrawing of districts, or total overhaul of the electoral system itself (or all three) so that the parties have to move towards drawing cross-community support and are forced to move beyond mobilizing old ethnic factions. Clearly, the current executive is just a complete and total useless mess and in the meantime, people suffer without jobs, income, proper electricity transmission! Seems to me that the extreme polarizations in the government, while they have improved since 1998, now do not reflect a more moderate population that is exhausted by the ridiculous, petty infighting and just wants a proper, competent administration in place. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I find it difficult to believe that, outside of dissident paramilitary groups, the people themselves, after we’ve come so far, would be incapable of moving towards peaceful co-existence. Have more faith in the people.

  • Greenflag

    Eunice

    ‘ Perhaps I am blind or naive ‘

    You are but you mean well 😉

    ‘Is this really so difficult for people to understand? ‘

    Everybody understands but not enough to do anything -the people are ‘powerless’ on both sides of the sectarian divide . They are in ‘hock ‘ to their local SF/DUP overlords .

    ‘The goal should be focused towards building grassroots civic associations among the people ‘

    Unionists are not interested in grassroots civic associations and nationalists and republicans have a surfeit of same .

    ‘The electoral problem implied here is not created by the housing problem, though it is aggravated by it. The entire approach of DUP and SF encourage sectarian division. What needs to happen is better integration of the population, redrawing of districts, or total overhaul of the electoral system itself (or all three) so that the parties have to move towards drawing cross-community support and are forced to move beyond mobilizing old ethnic factions.’

    A very nice paragraph . I read it several times and each time I became more impressed .The more I read it the more I realised that the problem is not housing nor is it people . The problem is the Northern Ireland State and the very basis on which it’s politics is built .

    ‘ Clearly, the current executive is just a complete and total useless mess and in the meantime, people suffer without jobs, income, proper electricity transmission! ‘

    Full marks for the obvious . You are one of many on this blog who are ‘p****d off ‘ with this circus of expensive clowns 🙁

    ‘Seems to me that the extreme polarizations in the government, while they have improved since 1998, now do not reflect a more moderate population that is exhausted by the ridiculous, petty infighting and just wants a proper, competent administration in place.’

    Maybe so – but it’s still a spark or two away from rekindling the tinderbox . Just have a glance through the 25 or so ‘threads’ and the total of ‘posts ‘ on the ‘parade ‘ this weekend ? Gobshittery of the utmost degree but there you have it -one gobshite one/several threads /several posts or whatever 🙁 Mindless is not a word I like to use too often in respect of threads but the ‘parade’ ones have certainly reached a new nadir in idiocy .

    ‘Call me a hopeless optimist’

    Fine – YOU ARE A HOPELESS OPTIMIST 😉

    But you can always succeed at giving up 🙂

    ‘ but I find it difficult to believe that, outside of dissident paramilitary groups, the people themselves, after we’ve come so far, would be incapable of moving towards peaceful co-existence. Have more faith in the people. ‘

    You’ll feel much better after you’ve given up all hope for NI ever becoming a normal democracy in it’s present format . And you’ll waste less time .

    Not sure about faith in the people . It can be a notoriously temporary phenomenon . Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell expressed his ‘faith ‘ inthe people in these words below .

    ‘Do not trust to the cheering
    For those very persons
    Would shout as much if you
    and I were going to be hanged ‘

    And on that note I kinda feel sorry for the local politicians in North Belfast for they will be hanged one way or another even if they eventually make the right overdue housing development decisions.

  • Do you know anything of what is planned in Skegoniell Ave / Glandore Avenue / Queen Victoria Gardens

    There are apartments planned for the site at the very bottom of the Somerton Road; this was alleged to be an evil plot against Protestants but actually most of the Protestants who lived in the immediate vicinity were happy to see any developed that brought in resposnible neighbours of whatever background rather than the teenage alco/junkie/thieving scumbag infested waste ground and empty houses that are currently blighting their lives. And better than the Somerton Inn, which was always a magnet for trouble.

    There are a lot of derelict houses in Queen Victoria Gardens (immediately adjacent to this site); the remaining people who live there are in a bit of a nightmare situation where their street seems to be seen as a great place to hand out by every drunken teenage hood from Tiger’s Bay to Shore Crescent. As I said, they are happy enough to see responsible neighbours move in to bring some life into the area and not particularly worried about what foot they kick with. They are also really pissed off with the police response to their local problems.

    On the other hand, if any redevelopment is sold by Republicans as some great victory for Nationalism heralding “our ones'” impending demographic victory in North Belfast, etc., etc., then you might find they get worried that people are planning to put them out and dig their heels in.

    It wouldn’t take much to stabilise QVG and Fortwilliam Parade, which have a high number of voids, and Ashfield and all those streets on the left as you go up Skegoneill are well occupied anyway. And were starting to get quite mixed until the Summer of ’96 but that’s another story for another time…

    Is there any point in building more ‘social housing’ so that people can just sit around and do nothing in relative comfort.

    Obviously, it’s much better for people to be on benefits and living in squalor, Glencoppagh. People had the right attitude in the 1930s. Poor people don’t need decent housing. Let the fuckers sleep three to a room. 🙄

    A final thought on the housing crisis. There are literally hundreds of uninhabited private sector apartments in North Belfast and the northern fringe of the City Centre. Many of them were bought as speculative investments for capital gains but have little prospect of realising that now. If housing associations are given adequate support (perhaps in terms of assisting people with co-ownership or acting as mortgage guarantors as well as buying them to let out), they have the potential to contribute significantly to alleviating the housing crisis in North Belfast. However, I think many of them, built as they were for investors rather than occupiers, were built to very low spec. They might end up dumping housing associations with huge amounts of sub-standard stock which needs significant investment before being let. I wonder does anyone else have any thoughts on that matter?

  • Eunice

    “Unionists are not interested in grassroots civic associations and nationalists and republicans have a surfeit of same .”

    Ah, yes. I should have clarified – I meant associations across communities. I do realize this is a very general and perhaps unrealistic overview of the situation, but one has to start somewhere.

    Remember the seven steps needed for reform:

    1. A band of kooks: they sound insane now, but they will keep pushing until they become a mainstream success. That’s what’s needed here: a ‘crazy’ idea of depoliticizing a very real crisis.
    2. A philosophy: moral, social, whatever basis for the movement.
    3. Speed: if we let bureaucratic wrangling to continue forever more, nothing will ever be accomplished. See: Stormont.
    4. Clash of symbols: doesn’t just apply to poppy vs lily, union flag vs. tricolour. If the stagnant faction sticks with sectarianism, counter with integration. If they hold up a picture of ethnic violence, counter with a picture of a homeless family. There are more important things at stake.
    5. Shut up the economists: if you get bogged down with cost projections, etc etc, nobody will ever want to do anything ever. See: health care in the US, for which this list was originally devised.
    6. Mobilize the masses. This one is self-evident, I think.
    7. Master the game: you have to know how to either work or circumvent the system to achieve what you want to achieve.

    If you look into it, these apply to the successes of both the DUP and SF and pretty much every other notable movement. It’s time to move beyond divisive politics and actually get shit done.

    “You’ll feel much better after you’ve given up all hope for NI ever becoming a normal democracy in it’s present format . And you’ll waste less time .”

    Aye, undoubtedly. But the present format can give way to a better one. The current consociational system has succeeded in bringing together (for lack of a better word) the outliers – DUP and SF – and persuading them to work through government rather than against it. The (contentious) hope is that given time, co-existence becomes more stable. It’s the radicalization that’s the real problem; moving towards the center (I don’t mean ideologically but more just moving away from extremism) can organically lead to an integrationist model. There is evidence that the two formerly extremist parties are becoming more normalized, despite the current deadlock. See: dissidents on both sides. Extreme unionists decry Ian Paisley (!) for being too accommodating of the nationalists and there is of course RSF, etc. who still maintain SF (and the Provos) sold out after they abandoned abstentionism, let alone accepted Good Friday. The current government is pretty broken, but that doesn’t mean all of the pieces are useless. The breakdown of Sunningdale and the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 were seen as failures at the time, but the unionist and nationalist negotiations of and agreement on the GFA were really dependent on the experience of these previous policies. If the current leaders can take a step back for just a second and put the actual interests of the people ahead of politics, maybe the current set-up can give way to a working government that oh, I don’t know, actually holds meetings once in a while?

    “Not sure about faith in the people . It can be a notoriously temporary phenomenon . Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell expressed his ‘faith ‘ inthe people in these words below .”

    Of course. I meant not a reliance on what can be a fickle daily opinion of the people but more a faith in the idea that, in the end, people will want a normal life – prolonged conflict, violent or ideological, is exhausting and sort of pointless.

  • Greenflag

    Eunice –

    I concede to your indomitable optimism and wish you luck 🙂 It is true that journey of thousand miles begins with first step . It’s even more true that GF is not a fan of any policy that takes a thousand years to ‘succeed ‘. Forty years is more than enough but then I’m notoriously ‘impatient ‘ 😉

    Good luck though and if I may say so that was a bloody good post . We shall see as events unfold whether your optimism is justified . While we would all wish that reason would eventually prevail- NI politics in practice has too often shown ‘reason’ and ‘compromise’ the door 🙁

  • picador

    Sammy,

    I can well remember the summer of which you speak, which was when the decline really set in in that area. It’s really depressing to see the wasteland that exists there now. The area badly needs redeveloped. It’s an area where people have lived together in the past and should be able to do so in the future.

  • Glencoppagagh

    I should have realised that this thread is all about Lebensraum.
    That the state must provide is, of course, axiomatic.
    Please forgive my earlier gauche intrusion.

  • Greenflag

    GC ,

    ‘I should have realised that this thread is all about Lebensraum.’

    Nicht wahr (Untrue( . It’s all about Atmensraum (breathing room also breeding room as a derivative of the former ) .

    ‘That the state must provide is, of course, axiomatic.’

    Not it is’nt . Where the market cannot provide or supply then the State has a responsibility to intervene if only to save ‘itself’ from dysfunction , chaos and continuing civil conflict. The ‘atmensraum ‘ is needed to build up less dependence on the State sector.

    ‘Please forgive my earlier gauche intrusion.’

    Why ? Sounded more like an intrusion from the ‘droit ‘ side of the fence . You can philosophise about the semantic differences between ‘gauche’ and ‘maladroit’ but most people needing housing have more mundane concerns I would think .

  • picador

    I should have realised that this thread is all about Lebensraum.

    And keeping the untermensch hemmed into their ghettoes.

    However it would be going to far to describe Nigel Dodds as a Nazi.

    That the state must provide is, of course, axiomatic.

    Unionist politicians in north Belfast have a long and dishonorable record of opposing public and private housing developments where they consider that ‘RCs’ might move in. They are pretty good however when it comes to getting money for public housing in loyalist areas.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Don’t follow your reasoning Greenflag.
    Expecting the state to provide housing when you’re neither old or disabled is a symptom of extreme dependency culture which runs as follows:
    “I was born and reared here so I have a right to live here if I want to even if I can’t get a job here and it’s up to the state to give me a nice house”.
    But if you moved somewhere else you might have a better chance of getting a job and maybe even buying a house?
    (Incredulity)”What would I want to do that for?”
    Are people sleeping on the streets of North Belfast or in garden sheds?

  • runciter

    Are people sleeping on the streets of North Belfast or in garden sheds?

    What is the optimum level of destitution for the market to function effectively?

  • Glencoppagagh

    Runciter
    The absence of people sleeping rough would tend to suggest there is no absolute shortage of housing in the area.
    I’ve no doubt that there is a demand for “social” housing but among people of your political disposition demand and need are almost invariably the same thing.

  • runciter

    The absence of people sleeping rough would tend to suggest there is no absolute shortage of housing in the area.

    How many people should be sleeping rough before we build additional housing?

    What is the optimum level of destitution?