Northern Ireland news

Glassmullin residents' group 'sceptical' of mediator proposal over La Salle school sports proposals

Protesters are occupying Glassmullin Green in west Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

A RESIDENTS' group opposed to the construction of a new sports facility on green space in west Belfast has said it is sceptical of proposals to appoint an independent mediator to help resolve the row.

De La Salle College wants to build a £1.6 million facility, including a 3G pitch, car park and pavilion on Glassmullin Green in Andersonstown.

The development would take up around half of the green space.

However, protesters opposed to the plans have occupied the site for days and have vowed to stay until the dispute is resolved.

A contractor was due to start work on the site on August 19 but left following a stand-off with protesters.

The school suggested earlier this week that a mediator could be appointed to help tackle the row.

However, the residents' group, Friends of Glassmullin Open Green said it was only informed of the proposal on Tuesday and has concerns about how the mediator will be appointed and who they might be.

The group has been fighting for the last six years against development on the land - one of the last green spaces in the area.

Aithne Kerrigan (38), who lives close to the green with her husband and two young children, said the group is always willing to meet the school.

But she said it has concerns about the mediation proposal.

"We're not against the school," she said.

"This is about protecting the green for the thousands of people in Andersonstown.

"The school has other options. They have been leasing pitches at (nearby girls' high school) St Genevieve's since 2008.

"We just feel this is a fundamental waste of public money."

Ms Kerrigan said the facilities would not be free for residents to use.

"We never wanted this to get to crisis point," she said.

"We have always wanted to resolve this situation but we live in this area and we're not going to go away."

The group is due to meet the permanent secretary of the Department of Education on Wednesday morning to raise its concerns about the project.

Ms Kerrigan said the group had requested that the permanent secretary visit the green.

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