So the East Belfast District Policing Partnership Sub-Group met in the Mount Conference centre last night. One of the items on the meeting's agenda was the future of Mountpottinger PSNI Barracks.
In advance of the meeting I did a lot of media yesterday highlighting the mammoth waste of money involved in retaining the base (I won't go into to them all now but you can get further detail at http://www.sebelfastsinnfein.com/) including Good Morning Ulster, The Nolan Show, CityBeat Radio and UTV News.
This is an issue i have been campaigning on since I first became a member of Sinn Féin and even before that, primarily as a resident of the Short Strand who has to live in the shadow of this base.
Before the DPP meeting over 100 people gathered outside Mountpottinger to hold a vigil in memory of those victims killed as a result of this base but also sending a very clear message that this base should go!
I am confident that the PSNI have seen sense and that the recommendation for the closure of Mountpottinger will soon be heading the Policing Board as well as Hugh Orde (bear in mind I asked Hugh Orde directly and he told me this base was a waste of money and that it should go!). This is a positive move; it is a positive move because it will allow the space and the confidence to move policing in East Belfast forward, to get policing right.
I am saddened that as yet, no Unionist politicians in the East of the City have been able to come forward with any other argument for the retention of Mountpottinger other than it should simply stay. I am up for having the argument as to why Mountpottinger should go, I believe I have put that argument forward to the people. If people have another view, other than feeling the need to retain a militarised base in the middle of a Republican area to keep an eye on the rowdy natives then let's hear it. If that is the only argument, and it appears thus far that it is, then that is a sad reflection on the leaders of Unionism in East Belfast.
Let's move beyond the DUP mentality of putting a 'ring of steel around the Short Strand' to an environment where policing is reflective of an answerable to the needs of the local community.
Mountpottinger is going, there is no doubt about that, i look forward to the day that it does. I look forward to the day when the community who have suffered as a result of it's presence and who continue to suffer as a result of its drain on policing resources, can see something much more positive and worthwhile on the site.
What we need to do now is work to make sure that the community safety policing teams are working for the benefit of the people, working to tackle crime/anti social behaviour and throwing off the shackles of Mountpottinger and everything it represents.