Letters to the Editor

Tony should look at bigger picture when it comes to Casement Park project

One got the overriding feeling reading Tony Dignan from Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (March 25) that his arguments where flawed and his views narrow. I do, however, note his agenda.
There can be no room for a hierarchy of rights within the project. All parties have engaged widely in the lengthy consultation process. For Tony to suggest that Ulster GAA is trying to ‘shoehorn’ a stadium into the site would be a complete violation of residents’ rights and one would imagine highly unproductive to the Ulster GAA’s new application. As Tony is aware, Ulster GAA, the GAA centrally and all statutory authorities in the north have been heavily involved in the latest planning application – no ‘shoehorning’ – just constructive dialogue and a clear want to produce a positive outcome. Indeed all statutory authorities previously opposed to the original application are now fully on-board. On the point about the size and capacity of the stadium, having reviewed Lord Justice Horner’s verdict one must completely refute Tony’s argument. Judge Horner commented: “Whilst I have no issue with the size, or design of the stadium, the issue is about process.” The last application for various reasons was ‘flawed’. Concerns were outlined by police around safety concerns, failures in the environmental impact assessment of the project and failures in the transport/road plans around the new venture were the ratio decidendi in overturning planning, not design or the capacity. External limited infrastructures around the stadium caused planning to be overturned.
Tony then addresses budgets. No-one has any arguments to the contrary that the cost of this venture has risen substantially. However, this is about providing equality. Both the IFA and Ulster Rugby have had their slice of the pie. If it was Tony’s way the GAA would be left with nothing. Original project money was ring fenced and can be added too. However, one must ask, what about value – something one can never put a price upon. Tony’s view on the Casement Park project is a narrow one. Imagine the bigger picture, the economic investment in west Belfast, small business benefiting from match day crowds, an appropriate venue for local community groups and events and of course opening west Belfast to the city. Think Big Tony. It’s a balance – value for money or investment in infrastructure, people and communities?
We need a stadium this size as this is not just about Antrim GAA. The wider theme in this project is, after years of political conflict and neglect by the GAA in these parts, bringing Ulster GAA back to its rightful home – Casement Park. The building of Casement Park represents another positive step forward for west Belfast.
It will also have a positive impact on all the communities in the city of Belfast and across Ulster.
Wouldn’t it be great that maybe, just maybe, in years to come inside a state of the art Casement Park we will hear the laughter of our children. 

Belfast BT10


Why has it taken so long for Carrick Hill housing approval?

Building permission has been approved by Belfast City Council planning committee for social housing at Carrick Hill. The site for six apartments and four houses is at the junction of Clifton Street/Stanhope Street. This is great news for north Belfast. A campaign for this housing scheme by Carrick Hill Residents Association, St. Patrick’s and St Joseph’s housing association has taken 10 years to come to fruition. Why has it taken so long for it to happen?
A previous application for the houses was submitted to the then planning authority, the Department for Social Development in 2014, but wasn’t given approval. It was not until 2016 that light was shed on the subject when The Irish News reported in an exclusive that two meetings between the DUP and Oaklee Housing Association, the body that had submitted the application, had taken place in 2014. 

Both meetings took place at Clifton Street Orange Hall. Representing the DUP where Brian Kingston, a Belfast City councillor, Nigel Dodds MP for North Belfast and Nelson McCausland, the then minister for social development, the department responsible for housing at the time.
The three of them where also members of the Orange Order. Following the two meetings Oaklee housing withdrew its application. No explanation has ever been given why the application was withdrawn.  People can draw their own conclusions from these events. 

Congratulations is due to Frank Dempsey, Carrick Hill Residents Association, Gerard Brophy and St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Association for their diligence over a long period of time for getting this belated phase of housing approved. There are several other derelict sites at Carrick Hill that had in previous years been earmarked for social housing. Unfortunately, however, the sites have long since been taken from the Housing Executive and given over to defunct Northside Development. 

One of the sites at Stephen Street car park was planned for 28 houses to be built on it. The aforementioned community activists hope to get these sites back for badly needed social housing. Good luck to them. 

Belfast BT15


Restore power to Housing Executive

I am absolutely delighted that planning permission has been granted for the provision of much-needed social housing on the Clifton Street site adjoining Carrick Hill. This has been a long time in coming to fruition. For a number of decades St Patrick and St Joseph’s housing committee have been lobbying the political parties to use their offices and influence to press for the Housing Executive and DfC to deliver social housing to the nationalist areas of north Belfast. Sadly they have been left wanting. The HE needs to have the power restored to them to be able to do what they were appointed for, to build social housing for those desperately in need. Look at the figures, they tell it all.

The time has come for the developers to either build or be forced to sell the land banked sites which they hold onto like grim death.
There wasn’t a problem to deliver sites for Ulster University or students accommodation which was identified by St Patrick  and  St Joseph’s for social housing many years ago.

Sailortown Regeneration, Belfast BT1


Disgraceful behaviour

We have witnessed on social media the Parachute Regiment firing at a target with a full-size image of Jeremy Corbyn’s head in Afghanistan. This was a sick and calculated act against the Labour leader, as last month he spoke out after it was learned that only one soldier would face prosecution for the massacre of 14 innocent civilians in Derry.

This disgraceful behaviour is nothing new and shows how right-wing extremism is displayed in the British army. This same regiment has the audacity to return to Belfast this month to stage a veterans’ rally ‘Paras Fight Back’ in support for ‘Soldier F’, who is to be prosecuted for Bloody Sunday.

Families of the innocent victims killed in Ballymurphy in 1971 by the regiment are disgusted that this rally is taking place. Loyalists in the town of Carrickfergus have stooped to a new low by erecting banners in support of this regiment.

Cricklewood, London 

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