Caral Ni Chuilin is clearly pleased the SDLP has given in to its demands that £100,000 be granted the building of changing facilities at the old Cliftonville Cricket Ground (the cricket club was burnt out of their buildings back in 1972), to accommodate a prosposed new Beann Mhadagaín primary school on the green field site (the option of using an adjacent brown field site to accommodate the school and help preserve the larger size pitch was rejected). In the North Belfast News last week, Pat Convery explained his party’s reasons for holding out before last night’s apparent reversal:
For decades there has been severe underprovision of GAA facilities citywide and in North Belfast in particular. This inequality is identified and recognised in Belfast City Councils pitches strategy which is expected to come forward in June. Comprehensively tackling that shortfall systematically is where we want to go.
Critics suggest the prioritisation of housing in nationalist areas over the development of green field facilities is what underlies the chronic shortfall in GAA facilities (there are around 10 pitches to serve the whole city, whilst there are several hundreds of soccer pitches. In that sense, historically neither the SDLP nor Sinn Fein have served their community particularly well.
Apparently this was behind Convery’s emphasis on the development of a city-wide strategy, as opposed to subjecting each situation on one by one piecemeal decision like this one.
As Ms Ni Cuilin noted her party’s plan “was backed by the local primary school, Bunscoil Beann Mhadagáin, a number of North Belfast GAA clubs and the local community”, although not initially by the Antrim GAA, who initially backed the idea of building a city wide strategy before committing substantial resources to junior pitches in this part of north Belfast.
Although the building of the school is subject to a province wide review of Catholic school provision and may not be progressed until those consultations arec
But as Tip O’Neill famously remarked, all politics is local. And Ms Ni Cuilin’s nicely conversational blog today is less about slapping the SDLP, and more about trying to squeeze their vote to try to enable Gerry Kelly take the Westminster seat off the DUP’s Nigel Dodds.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty