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Girdwood – House Need Not Creed

29/05/12

Stormont's Girdwood proposalIn 2011, the then Stormont minister for Social Development, Alex Attwood, announced that some 200 houses were to be built in north Belfast, on the former Girdwood Barracks site. The plan was met with outrage and was branded as ‘deeply destabilising’ by the largest party in Stormont, the DUP.

Whilst there was – and is – cause for outrage, given that a mere 200 houses were planned to address a housing waiting list of some 2500, it was not, remarkably, the obscene under supply of homes that was ‘deeply destabilising’ to the DUP but rather the fact that they were to be allocated on the basis of need over creed.

So, rather than overturning the sod of the proposed Girdwood development, the incoming DUP minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, overturned the planned development itself. Rolling back the years, the DUP has patently refused to support any development at the site that sought to address the objective realities facing north Belfast, which are that:

  • The majority of those 2500 on the housing waiting list are nationalists;
  • Stormont’s department of Social Development’s own ‘Equality Impact Assessment’ in 2008 projected that by 2012, this year, 95 per cent of social housing need would be from nationalists;
  • and, thus, any proposed development must reflect that need.

While one could forgive a devout creationist, such as Nelson McCausland, for railing against reality and perhaps even feign surprise that a leading member of the reactionary DUP would propose allocating housing on the basis of blatant sectarian social engineering, what is shocking is that they haven’t found themselves on the margins of mainstream political opinion.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

For representatives of the SDLP and Sinn Féin, whose constituents are to be directly and grossly disenfranchised under the current plan, stood shoulder to shoulder with the DUP’s Nelson McCausland for its launch, which consisted solely of a photo opportunity as no journalists had been invited, perhaps an early indication of the need to prevent scrutiny of the plan and bury its implications.

Responding to the initiative, éirígí spokesperson John McCusker lambasted all those involved.

“Nelson McCausland, at the launch of this plan, said that they, the political representatives of the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Sinn Féin, were 'sending a powerful message to north Belfast’ and indeed they were. The message was that the Orange State, where houses were allocated on the basis of creed over need is not quite shattered yet.

“In fact, the Housing Executive, founded in 1971 to remove, in theory at least, the political and sectarian influences from the housing allocation process, which had for decades reigned supreme in the Six Counties has been undone by the various parties based at Stormont, not least by those that make claims on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

“The question that must be asked of those claiming to represent the equality agenda is, if you are unable to deliver a north Belfast of equals, what chance an Ireland of one?”

 

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