A tale of two enclaves

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By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)

For understandable reasons most of the publicity about petrol bombs flying over interface fencing is focused on east Belfast’s Short Strand. It’s not the only place where there is tension, of course. A couple of weeks ago someone threw a petrol bomb into the small Protestant enclave at Suffolk in west Belfast. In some respects that enclave is a mirror image of the Short Strand but in important ways it is completely different. It’s a tiny orange blob in a vast sea of green facing Lenadoon and Andersonstown across the Stewartstown Road. Middle-class Catholic housing around Black’s Road completes the encirclement. Fewer than 750 Protestants remain in the district. The Short Strand is much larger, with over 3,000 people hemmed in against the River Lagan by the more than 60,000 in overwhelmingly unionist east Belfast. Both enclaves are cut off from their ethnic soul mates.

There the similarities end. In the case of Suffolk, Sinn Fein people have worked hard to reach out the hand of friendship and develop links across the two communities. It hasn’t always been successful. After all there was that recent petrol-bomb attack. However, immediately afterwards Sinn Fein councillor Gerard O’Neill issued a statement saying: “Whoever was behind the attack and for whatever motive, it is a disgrace and will not stop the good work continuing between the communities of Suffolk and Lenadoon areas. If it is sectarian then the people of the Suffolk estate should know that those that carried it out do not represent their neighbours in Lenadoon. Sectarianism from whatever guise is a cancer in our society and needs treated as such.” Of course it was sectarian but apart from that flaw in his remarks O’Neill made an effort to reassure the people in Suffolk.

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