Imagine a Housing Minister and a Member of Parliament demanding a meeting with a Housing Association to oppose houses being built in their shared constituency in spite of the area being plagued by a lengthy housing waiting list.
Well, imagine no more.
The Irish News led with a story yesterday alleging that the then DUP Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds, and DUP councillor Brian Kingston met with representatives from Oaklee Homes to discuss their opposition to homes being built in a nationalist area of north Belfast.
The meeting took place in an Orange Hall.
The Irish News reported that the focus of the meeting was a plan to build houses in the Stanhope Street/ Clifton Street junction area of the nationalist Carrick Hill area.
The Irish News pointed out that, at the time, McCausland was Housing Minister, and in that capacity he provided funding to housing associations, including Oaklee.
The DUP delegation asked Oaklee representatives during the meeting to attend a follow-up meeting in the Clifton Street Orange Hall several days later.
From the paper:
“Oaklee had planned to build four semi-detached houses and six apartments close to Stanhope Street and Clifton Street- which leads from Belfast city centre to the Crumlin Road.
Several weeks after meeting the DUP the association withdrew the housing application.”
This is astonishing.
It would appear that a government minister responsible for housing, fully conscious of the housing crisis facing most particularly the catholic community in north Belfast, actively lobbied to prevent homes being built to ease the crisis.
Well, local community worker, Frank Dempsey, thinks he has the answer. Dempsey claims that “It’s quite clear from that meeting this was withdrawn under pressure to facilitate Orange marches coming down Clifton Street.”
In 2015 Oaklee merged with two other associations to form Choice Housing. The Irish News reported that Choice Housing are refusing to comment when asked to explain why the Stanhope Street housing proposal was withdrawn, and are also refusing to comment as to whether or not minutes were taken of the Orange Hall DUP meetings.
The development puts into context Nigel Dodds’ allegation of lazy sectarianism labeled at Gerry Kelly last year after a row was sparked by Sinn Fein’s publication of an election leaflet illustrating the religious demography of the north Belfast constituency.
Nigel’s party would appear to prefer a more active approach to sectarianism.
Indeed, Barry McCaffrey at The Detail has catalogued the actions and utterances of senior DUP politicians in the north Belfast constituency regarding housing over many years.