CALEDON 1968 – GIRDWOOD 2012!
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Association, after 40 years of conflict and associated conflict management, over 2500 deaths the northern Ireland state has arrived back were it started, a state founded on intolerance, bigotry and discrimination. In a shady sectarian carve up by the DUP/SF in relation to the former Girdwood Barracks site has left local working class communities and those requiring social housing reeling as once again equality measures have been ignored in favour of sectarian division.
The IRSP believe that the redevelopment of the former British Army base is a one off opportunity to incorporate public housing, community and leisure facilities and social economy development units that will create business opportunities and jobs for the local community in an area of high unemployment
Unfortunately, the entire working class community in north Belfast has been let down and betrayed by politicians more interested in the benefits for their individual political parties than the needs of the community that elects them. The working class will not be DUPed by the wolf in sheep’s clothing over the Girdwood development, that is a current extension by the DUP policy of segregation and isolation.
People may ask why would any elected representative who advocates social equality agree to a plan that is quite clearly based on sectarian division and discrimination against not only the Irish nationalist community but also ethnic minorities. In fact the proposed Girdwood housing plan discriminates against anyone who is not a Protestant.
For the record the IRSP support the right of all working class people to have free and unfettered access to decent public housing regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or political allegiance, we support that right without exception. Housing Action activists such as St. Patricks and St. Josephs Housing Committee and the North Belfast Civil Rights Association have long campaigned to highlight the discrimination against Catholics in housing provision and allocation in north Belfast.
Public housing is an urgent requirement in north Belfast; the Girdwood site provides a significant opportunity to address the needs and requirements of those families living in housing stress. Nelson McCausland has ignored the advice from the Housing Executive and shut them out of the planning process and in doing so has run roughshod over the Civil rights of thousands of ordinary working class people in housing stress.
McCausland also cited the demise as he sees it of the one time loyalist Torrens estate as an example of what could happen in the Lower Oldpark. Whilst there was undoubtedly some low level sectarian intimidation in Torrens over a long period of time against some loyalist families (intimidation that the IRSP highlighted and condemned at the time) the vast majority of Protestant families who lived and still live in Torrens do so free from sectarian intimidation.
The real lesson of what happened to the Torrens loyalists is that their failure to integrate and share facilities in the area led to the social isolation felt by those families, no amount of investment and housing redevelopment could halt the decline in a community determined to live in isolation from their neighbours because of their perceived religion. That is the real lesson of Torrens.
The Girdwood housing plan reinforces sectarian division and it could in the long-term leave the Lower Oldpark community totally isolated and in a state permanent decline. There are already empty homes in the Lower Oldpark, why would building more homes encourage people to move there. The notion that families from the Shankill will move to the area is fanciful. Why have they not done so up to now? Nelson McCausland is a dedicated isolationist who has spent his entire political life trying to insure that Catholics and Protestants are kept apart. (Remember his partition the Waterworks idea), only the deluded could believe that his plans for public housing on the Girdwood site are not based on the premise of sectarian division.
The IRSP are calling on housing activists and community activists to mount a strong challenge against the Girdwood plan. Public meetings need to be held to give voice to the wider community that has yet to be consulted on the housing plans. Whilst a delay in building new homes in an area of critical housing need is not desirable, it is certainly more desirable than building new homes that will be permanently beyond the reach of one section of our community.