Leading article

Alarm over Dunmurry housing claims

Housing has always been an issue of fundamental importance in our society and the dispute over a new project on the outskirts of Belfast has ramifications which go well beyond the Dunmurry area.

The Housing Executive has supervised many key reforms since it was launched in 1971, but it is still a matter for considerable concern that most urban working class neighbourhoods are firmly segregated on religious lines.

While it will be accepted that, in Belfast, Catholics are as unlikely to seek a transfer to the Shankill district as Protestants are to the Falls Road, it is essential that careful thought is given to the procedures surrounding the allocation of new homes in less sensitive locations

The attitude of some loyalist figures towards a proposed development on the site of the former Dunmurry High School, in a suburb of Belfast which has had issues in the past but where Protestants and Catholics have generally lived together in an atmosphere of mutual respect, is particularly alarming.

As The Irish News first revealed last week, a unionist-dominated residents' association sent out a deeply questionable social media post encouraging approaches to be made to a DUP councillor about the balance of the forthcoming allocations.

The blunt message, which immediately drew sharp criticism, said; `Please get yourself on the list and let's get these houses filled up with people from (the) unionist/loyalist community.'

Councillor Jonathan Craig, a former MLA, distanced himself from the initiative coming from a group on which his wife, previously another DUP elected representative, is also a board member.

The community association also apologised for what it described as `wrong vocabulary', but another DUP councillor, Paul Porter, with online support from party colleagues, responded by saying he intended `to fight for more local housing for local families and individuals.'

It must be stressed that houses should be allocated on a basis of fairness and equality, taking into account accepted criteria which reflect need and do not involve other perceived affiliations in any shape or form.

If all our parties follow these principles, regardless of the geographic and political circumstances, we will be in a much better place in every way.

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