Irish Republican News · May 25, 2012
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Anger at sectarian housing plan

The Stormont Executive has been accused of creating an Israeli-style settlement for Protestant in north Belfast after it issued an appeal to that community to “put down roots” in an area of north Belfast where the waiting list for housing is dominated by Catholics.

The latest figures from the Housing Executive show that 95% of new build housing in north Belfast is required by Catholics.

It emerged that flyers offering housing in the streets of lower Oldpark around the base were sent out by the North’s Housing Executive only to residents of the loyalist Shankill Road. They detailed Protestant-dominated schools, church and social groups in an attempt to sell the new settlement to that community.

“Belfast Royal Academy is only round the corner on the Cliftonville Road,” it states, while groups associated with the Protestant community, such as the Girls’ Brigade and Boys’ Brigade, are listed under ‘Churches’.

The redevelopment of the Girdwood site is mentioned, which “should help make the lower Oldpark area an even more attractive area in which to put down roots”.

The latest figures from the Housing Executive show that 95% of new build housing in north Belfast is required by Catholics.

The SDLP’s Oldpark councillor Nichola Mallon criticised the fact that the brochures were targeted atProtestants.

“When information is going out about a housing issue or potential demand for housing in a particular area, especially in contested places, it should go out to everyone,” she said.

“If it doesn’t, it is seen as being partial, selective and an attempt to engineer housing demand, not a response to genuine housing need.’”

Political commentator Brian Feeney said the leaflets could breach equality legislation.

“When such a high percentage of people on the waiting list for that area are Catholic, why is such an effort being made to attract people to new houses from the Protestant community?” he said.

“There is clearly a breach of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act.

“It is not fully compliant with equality where housing should be made on the basis of need and not for political considerations or the geography of the area.”

The controversy surrounding the redevelopment of the former British Army base at Girdwood has also highlighted the continuing sectarianism of the Six-County administration.

The new masterplan for the base, revealed on Monday, controversially allocates housing on the basis of religion rather than need. Two separate blocks of new housing, one Catholic and one Protestant, will be built with a new sectarian interface between the two.

Journalists were not invited when representatives from Sinn Fein, the DUP, and the SDLP posed for photographs with their plan at the site, and there has been increasing criticism at the manner in which the project was handled.

In particular, it is still not known how many houses will be available to nationalists.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly has defended his party’s role in agreeing the controversial plan. Speaking on BBC radio, he said: “We deliberately are not talking about numbers of houses.”

“What we need to do is talk it out with the community and that talking is ongoing.”


Meanwhile, loyalists have placed flags along a nearby sectarian interface in north Belfast. Last weekend a number of loyalists placed sectarian flags along the interface between the New Lodge and Tigers Bay areas, including one they attached to a PSNI spy camera.

The flags were erected as thousands of loyalists took part in a parade across Belfast on Sunday to commemorate the centenary of the Balmoral Review.

In one of the first major parades of this year’s summer marching season, UVF and UDA paramilitaries marched alongside unionist politicians and members of the Protestant Orange Order and Apprentice Boys organisations. Although passing near a number of sectarian interfaces, the parade passed off without incident.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News