May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast

Here in London, I hadn’t heard of a promising-sounding initiative, Forum for an Alternative Belfast, until I read Fionola Meredith’s piece in the Irish Times. With their outline plan for the Missing City, a group of architects and others are dedicated to filling in the big gaps in the inner city and stopping the rot of Late Troubles Fortress Brutalism that infested the central area of the city over the last 20 years. I hope it’s not too late.The old heart of the city behind Berry St strikes me as just about salvageable. Bankmore St off Ormeau Ave was part of a mixed area of traditional terraces (focusing on Cassidy’s pub for some of us), whose name was appropriated for the sectarian killing ground of the lower Ormeau in the early 70s. Oldies will remember the Bankmore 11 football team that was almost wiped out. The small desert that remains is a kind of testimony to the terrible moral and social failures of that time. More social housing would seem to me highly desirable of the quality much of Belfast has enjoyed for the past 30 years. Development here presents a big challenge for Shared Future ideas, although by definition, these can’t be forced on communities. Spare us from more speculative high rises and apartments please. I was delighted to see that Maurice Craig, described here as “Ireland’s first conservation warrior” and author of the celebrated poem ( here slightly adapted as a song), “May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast” is still thriving, well into his nineties. The poem
(although not quite word for word accurately recalled here I think), is as fresh as ever.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London