Urgent investment to properly pedestrianise Belfast city centre
THE month of March saw a record-breaking 29,000-plus rentals of Belfast Bikes in our city.
While many people are no doubt availing of the improving weather and taking the opportunity to safely get outside, with all the positive mental health benefits that comes with that, I also believe the last year has shown us that Belfast citizens are up for re-imagining how we travel, how we live, work and play within our city.
Belfast Bikes can play a role in how we emerge from lockdown and take advantage of being active and outdoors, connecting with each other and our city in a safe and environmentally-friendly way.
I commend the leadership of Belfast City Council, both members and officials, in driving this project over the last number of years and I hope we can continue to see it expand throughout the city and reach communities who would surely take advantage of having the asset they help pay for much closer to their own homes – helping them access the city core and play their part in re-stimulating the Belfast
While I believe in the further potential of Belfast Bikes, it is predicated on the Department for Infrastructure properly and urgently investing in the nuts and bolts of cycling in the city – the Belfast Bikes scheme on its own will not be the solution to the challenges that lie ahead, they are of course much bigger than that.
If we want a city centre that is accessible, open, safer, cleaner, more environmentally just and equal, then some fundamentals need to change and change very soon.
We need more permanent, protected bike lanes.
We need to look at how our city is laid out, who (or what) is given precedence; we need to look at real physical improvements and recalibration, not the tokenistic and unenforced moves announced by the Department of Infrastructure in recent months to ‘pedestrianise’ a minuscule number of streets in a section of the city centre – while announced to much fanfare, these streets remain much the same as before and surely our aspirations for the city are much bigger and much bolder than this?
We should be ambitious.
We should look to the City of Cork and its decision to properly pedestrianise more than 17 streets in the centre of their city.
We need to look at giving Belfast back to people, by ensuring that if we do minimise the dominance of the private car in the city core, they don’t then further tighten their stranglehold on the inner-city communities that surround the heart of Belfast – these areas must not be forgotten in any future plan to improve travel and transport infrastructure in the centre of the city.
We need infrastructural planning and vision for a Belfast, like a world, forever changed as a result of what we’ve been through this last year.
An Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile
Presidential epiphany on education not reflective of reality
THE recent unrest by loyalist youths has been subjected to analysis and scrutiny as to the nature and cause of the violence. The protocol, the shortcomings of Brexit, a funeral held against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the lockdown and the breaches that were neither satisfactorily explained nor regretted.
At no point up to now had the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools been seen as the progenitor for the unrest and violence. That is until Michael D Higgins experienced an epiphany, revealing a truth – that segregation in education is the root cause of our troubles.
With this logic, the integration of boys and girls in education, from differing creeds and colour should have eradicated sexual inequality, abuse and racism. Yet national statistics do not reflect this.
CCMS exists like the GAA, to preserve, protect and promote Irish identity and culture on the island of Ireland. This endeavour has always been subjected to attack, both ancient and contemporary
To those who clamour for an end to CCMS I would say, it is not where education takes place, but how and what form of education takes shape. Top of that curriculum should be the mutual respect for each other’s traditions, beliefs and aspirations and equally important, the creation of opportunities for our young people to develop and explore the world, which in turn offers them hope. Something that has been denied them by political, rather than educational straitjackets.
Plenty of passion but no adequate provision for Gaelic sports in city’s north
WITH the easing of Covid restrictions in north Belfast, it has been heart-warming to see the number of passionate Gaels returning to the sport after what seems like an eternity since Ardoyne claimed the Junior Championship. Waves of black and white and the famous green and gold flooded back to the Cricky and the Waterworks to saturate themselves in their native games, although the latter not quite fit for the purpose of the sports. The success of north Belfast GAA clubs is almost despite the lack of provisions afforded to them in any shape or means.
There is one suitable GAA pitch in north Belfast, with several other smaller facilities used to supplement for training. The one GAA pitch in the north of the city is often lined out for local soccer clubs, so it cannot really be called a “GAA only” facility.
Naomh Éanna’s wonderful provisions, while servicing many north Belfast residents, falls outside the city limits and, with profound respect, are the fruits of 60-plus years of hard labour by the dedicated membership of the club, not any city or town council.
Recently, I have witnessed three clubs using the Alexandra Park for training sessions. Poised precariously on the edge of an interface, it is probably one of the only grass areas in north Belfast suitable to get a training session on. Littered often with discarded beer bottles and dog faeces, it is hardly ideal for training and yet the Gaels prevail. The problem is that north Belfast has long since been under-provisioned in terms of playing space. The incidents at the Grove last year proved that the area can still be a cold house to those wishing to express themselves through the Gaelic arts.
However, we need to start exploring future provision for Gaelic games in north Belfast as the games continue to grow. This not only helps north Belfast GAA, but Antrim GAA in general.
Pádraig Ó Deorain