Residents' group apologises for 'unionist' housing scheme post

Yvonne and Jonathan Craig with DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds
Brendan Hughes

A RESIDENTS' group has apologised over a Facebook post calling for a new social housing development to be "filled up with people from the loyalist/unionist community".

Seymour Hill and Conway Residents' Association said they used the "wrong vocabulary" and their message was "aimed at local houses for local people".

It follows criticism over the post, which encouraged people to meet with a DUP councillor about the development at the old Dunmurry High School site.

The group had said those in need of housing should "call in to see councillor Jonathan Craig", adding: "Please get yourself on the list and let's get these houses filled up with people from [the] loyalist/unionist community."

The association's board includes the former Lagan Valley MLA's wife, ex-DUP councillor Yvonne Craig, who also 'liked' the Facebook message.

Alliance, the SDLP and Sinn Féin hit out at the remarks, urging the DUP to clarify its stance on social housing.

Mr Craig distanced himself from the comments, and stressed that housing allocation is a matter for the Housing Executive.

Responding to the criticism yesterday, the Seymour Hill group removed the controversial post and apologised.

"It wasn't our intention to cause any offence to the rest of our community," they wrote.

"As a community group we represent everyone, but as we had a lot of residents come into the office feeling that because they are unionists/loyalists they are finding it hard to get housed in their own area where they grew up in and who want to be housed here, so the post was aimed at local houses for local people.

"We apologise for using the wrong vocabulary. We as a community group work tirelessly with all different groups in the area, including cross-community groups."

On Tuesday, Mr Craig said he has "no influence whatsoever" over housing allocation and anyone can seek his help "irrespective of their background".

Alliance Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn welcomed the apology and Mr Craig's response.

"I hope the association gives the same attention to anyone who looks for their assistance without regard to race, religion or political affiliation," he said.

"I was also pleased to see Jonathan's reply and hope he will carry out his obligations as an elected representative to work for all sections of the community."

SDLP Lisburn councillor Johnny McCarthy said the resident group's remarks were "extremely disappointing", while Sinn Féin's Carál Ní Chuilín branded them "disgraceful".

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