North Belfast IRSP – Girdwood Statement
Non-sectarian vision required for Girdwood site – IRSP
The IRSP in North Belfast have expressed concern about the lack any really non sectarian vision for the Girdwood site and has accused the Stormont executive of ignoring the ongoing inter community relations programmes between the lower Cliftonville and lower Oldpark communities and the possible negative effects of an insensitive development on Girdwood on that positive work. People could be forgiven for believing the local media that the interface existing in Girdwood is between the New Lodge and lower Oldpark communities (The BBC frequently referred to the loyalist Cliftonpark Avenue area, this will be news to the hundreds of nationalist families who live on Cliftonpark Avenue).
One possible and most likely outcome of the Girdwood plan is that the Lower Oldpark community will end up walled in by interfaces on three different sides. Given Nelson McCauslands track record on promoting sectarian division and isolationism in North Belfast one would not be surprised that this is his real strategy for Girdwood.
Much of the concern being raised in north Belfast centre on the amount of public housing and where it is sited within the Girdwood site. The current plans are ill thought out and seem to be designed with a view to limiting the amount of public housing on the development.
The site earmarked for public housing on Cliftonpark Avenue\Lwr. Oldpark is already owned by the housing executive and is not part of the Girdwood footprint. Why have the Housing Executive not built homes already, could it be possible that there is no demand for public housing in the lower Oldpark? Time will tell.
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.
The IRSP believe that a comprehensive plan is needed to allow the local communities to work together to develop the area as beacon of positive community relations, a mixture of public housing, leisure facilities, economic units and community facilities, the Girdwood Plan whilst it signposts these issues lacks any detail or planning on how this site will work to bring the communities together.
There is much public speculation in regards to the Girdwood Plan being a trade off between SF/DUP for a conflict transformation and reconciliation centre at Long Kesh, that has been denied by both Parties, whatever the truth of that matter wouldn’t it be great to have such a transformation centre at the core of the community hub in Girdwood where it would do some good and provide not only the infrastructure but also put a community relations and public housing plan at the core of the development of the Girdwood site.
North Belfast IRSP representative Paul Little called on the politicians to go back to the drawing board and consider drawing up a non sectarian, progressive plan for Girdwood site in conjunction with a comprehensive community consultation about the entire Girdwood footprint and not just the community hub as it has been to up to now.