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A Sinn Fein solution to housing? Don't look North!

8 October 2021

Aeriel view of the old Mackies site off the Springfield Road in Belfast.

In the book of genesis Lot's wife disobeys an order not to look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and is turned to a pillar of salt.

Those seeking a Sinn Fein government to resolve the housing crisis are advised not to look North. The general behaviour of Sinn Fein in government is far from edifying and their role in housing particularly so.

The latest scandal involves Belfast City Council and the derelict Mackie's engineering site off Belfast's Springfield Road.

The Mackies site is a 32 acre site owned by the Department for Communities in an area with at least 4,186 households on the social housing waiting list.

There was a general assumption that there would be large scale public housing built and there was a campaign by a fairly moderate housing lobby group, PPR, initially supported by Alliance, the Green Party, People Before Profit, SDLP, Sinn Fein and homeless protestors for homes on the Mackies site.

That was in late 2015.  Earlier this year inquiries to Belfast City Council about a walkway on the site met with a curt statement that no social housing was planned. On 14 September the Planning Committee voted to re-designate acres of the former Mackie's foundry site as parkland. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the UVF front PUP voted to close further discussion.

So the party that in Dublin claims to have the solution to the housing crisis has forced through a deal in Belfast that converts the largest site in the area into a park!  A park between two other parks!

A 2018 feasibility study, the initial greenway 'concept route' was through an existing park.
Why did it change? Why  propose a "strategic change" of route, through Mackies? The explanation was that Woodvale Park was "strongly identified with one community".

You can say that again! In 2013 Lord Mayor, Mairtin O'Muilleoir, came under attack from loyalist protesters in an official visit while DUP representatives faded into the bushes.

Sinn Fein stood still for this ambush and have signed up to this deal, a DUP and PUP veto on nationalist housing in an interface area.

It's not the first time. In 2012 land at Girdwood barracks saw a sectarian deal based on the idea that the land had to be split equally on sectarian grounds, even though the vast majority of need was in the nationalist area. Only a few homes were built.

In 2017 Catholic residents of Cantrell Close were forced from their homes under the noses of the police and with little reaction from Sinn Féin. The area was a shared space designated in the Good Friday Agreement and funded to help end housing apartheid.

Those looking for a Sinn Féin government in Dublin should rub the fairy dust from their eyes. It should be borne in mind that the original movement for social housing on the Mackies site was a "broad left"  including Sinn Féin, leftists, Greens, the SDLP and the homeless. Sinn Féin betrayed them.

What price a "left" coalition government in Dublin?

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