Thursday, 29 October 2009

Taking to the streets of Ravenhill………

Following an extensive Political Canvass in the Ravenhill and Rosetta area’s some months ago Sinn Fein activists in South & East Belfast have been working diligently on many of the issues raised with us on the doorsteps.

As always issues varied from door to door, some people had their own individual constituency concerns but other issues were common throughout the community; the proposed extension to Belfast City Airport, opposition to plans to develop Ormeau Park, community safety, alley-gating and anti-social issues, planning matters, policing visibility and things like dog fouling and environmental concerns in the areas.

While we work on these issues in the background it’s still important to touch base with the people who took the time to speak to us and raise matter on their doorsteps. That’s why we recently delivered update bulletins to homes in Rosetta and this time it’s Ravenhill’s turn.

Yesterday we covered Ardenlee and over the coming days we will distribute bulletins throughout that part of the city. Thankfully, yesterday bhí an aimsir linn, and that always helps to spur us on!

When the bulletins are distributed it will be available to view online at our local website @

If you live in Ravenhill and we missed you during the canvass or if you don’t but have any issues you want to raise get in touch by contacting the office

South & East Belfast Sinn Féin
Unit 3
174 Ormeau Road
Belfast BT7 2ED
Tel: (028) 90243194

Our photo shows myself and David, who along with several other Sinn Féin activists distributed the latests bulletin around Ardenlee yesterday. Plenty more to cover in the coming days!)

UPDATE: You can now read the bulletin online at

Monday, 26 October 2009

Community safety

Our photo shows me delivering the Martin/Treacy Community Safety leaflet to homes along Strand Walk (Thanks to Máiréad, who was all scundered about getting in the photo!!)

Strand Walk and Vulcan Street have unfortunately seen an increase in burglaries and attempted burglaries over recent months. Many people who live along Strand Walk are pensioners and disabled people who live in the specially adapted bungalows, the others are mostly young families.

Anyone who knows Strand Walk will know that it is an isolated part of our area, mostly because of the ‘peacewall’ that runs along the front of it. Much of the shrubbery has become vastly overgrown and as residents have pointed out to me, there is very little street lighting along the path.

This is something we must work to rectify.

I have already contacted the Roads Service and the Housing Executive regarding these issues and hope we can work to create a much more visible and inviting space for the residents who live there that will hopefully go someway in making them feeler safer in their own homes.

Be certain of one thing, the people carrying out these burglaries and attempted burglaries are not representative of the Short Strand community, most of the burglaries and attempted burglaries have been opportunistic, the Strand remains a good place to live with a solid community spirit. That is what will ultimately bring an end to these burglaries and what will face down those who seek to steal, hurt and intimidate residents in their own homes.

The PSNI also have their role to play, they are more than aware of the situation in this part of the district; I have raised it with them and they were left under no illusions about it at the last DPP meeting which met in the Short Strand Community Centre.

Much work lies ahead and on Wednesday afternoon the Short Strand Partnership Board, along with local residents, will receive a presentation from Belfast City Council’s ‘re-imaging’ team for plans to environmentally improve the area, I look forward to it!

In parallel with this, for sometime now, I have been working with NIE and others to come up with ideas for the now disused electricity sub-station in Strand Close, immediately off Strand Walk. I have no doubt that this will form part of the overall environmental improvements and I look forward to hearing the thoughts and opinions of residents along Strand Walk once again.

With all of these things when an problem arises the community in the Strand band together and think of a positive thing to do, this is just another example of that and it will be exciting to see what improvements we can make for people who live in this part of the area.

Go n-éirí linn!!!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Short Strand Drug Awareness Group takes to the streets

The Short Strand Drug Awareness Group was out in force last Thursday evening to distribute their latest update bulletin to every home in the area.

I, along with a number of other Sinn Féin activists joined them in helping to get the leaflets out.

Formed in 2001 the SSDAG has done some brilliant work within the community, working with the local schools as well as the Doyle Youth Club. Many young people have passed through their courses and training programmes since it began it’s work.

The Group has recently undergone a bit of a rejuvenation and Thursday night’s leaflet drop was part of that.

Like most area’s in Ireland, the Short Strand has a drug problem, it isn’t huge, it isn’t spiralling out of control, but it’s there.

The work of the SSDAG is vital in a community like ours; it highlights the issues and gives people who are suffering, or fearful or concerned about a loved one, a place to go for help, assistance and support.

I’m very proud to assist the SSDAG with it’s work and I wish them all the best for the work they have ahead of them in the time ahead.

Pictured distributing the SSDAG update leaflet in the Strand is myself with Mick O'Donnell from the Drug Awareness Group

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Quote for today

"I have no prouder boast than to say I am Irish and have been privileged to fight for the Irish people and for Ireland. If I have a duty I will perform it to the full with the unshakeable belief that we are a noble race and that chains and bounds have no part in us".

Monday, 12 October 2009

Short Strand residents call for Barracks site

Conor Keenan (Short Strand Residents Association) Bernie McConnell (Short Strand Community Forum) Joe O'Donnell (Short Strand Partnership) Myself, Patrick Devlin (St Matthews Housing Association)
Various groups from the Short Strand gathered at the 'Lighthouse Building' in Belfast's Gasworks, the headquarters of the Department for Scoial Development.
We were there to submit a joint letter calling on Housing Minister Margaret Ritchie to acquire the land at Mountpottinger Barracks (following it's closure in August) urgently for the development of social and family homes.
The letter also called for a meeting with the Minister seeking to explore the potenial for development on the site in the very near future.
Go n-éirí linn!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Independent, International Truth Commission

Sinn Féin President and west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has outlined the party's extensive and comprehensive submission on the issue of victims and truth recover.

The video is of a press conference held yesterday in Sinn Féin's Sevastapol St Offices on the Falls Road.

I think Gerry outlines the position enough in the video so i don't think I need to the same again here.

Seo chugaibh.......

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

preas ráiteas / press release

Ó Donnghaile to seek meeting with Odyssey Trust

Sinn Féin Representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile has given a ‘cautious welcome’ to plans by the Odyssey Trust to develop a £100 million project close to the Odyssey arena in Belfast.

Speaking after it was revealed that Trust are seeking planning permission for 800 residential units, two hotels and a promenade development Mr Ó Donnghaile said;

“Obviously any potential stimulation to the economy is welcome in the current climate, however any development of this scale must also secure the investment and support of the surrounding, established communities.

This part of the east Belfast is seeing increased levels of economic stimulation with the development of Titanic Quarter, Sirocco Quays and now the Odyssey. however it is essential that surrounding communities are consulted and involved with the process every step of the way.

For example, will the surrounding communities, some of them the most economically deprived in the north, benefit from apprenticeships for young people, or from the development of social homes? Will there be increased and improved connectivity between the Odyssey and these same communities as well as the other planned developments?

Given the fact that the Odyssey development will be financed entirely by private investment I am sure that other political and community representatives will share my concern that the project needs to be in line with the existing plans to develop the surrounding area’s and communities and not in isolation.

Sinn Féin has been to the fore in ensuring the necessary community involvement with both Titanic Quarter and Sirocco Quays and will approach this new development in the same way.

Some positives seem to be contained within the plans for the Odyssey, not least the planned leisure provision, as this is an issue which Sinn Féin has been campaigning on for some time now.

I will be in contact with the Odyssey Trust over the coming days to highlight some of these concerns and look forward to hearing their contribution.” CRÍOCH

You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows…….

“Erin go Bragh”

“Ireland Forever”

That is the motto, in Irish, that adorns the chain of office of the Mayor of Belfast.

I remember the first time I entered City Hall, it was on a school trip in second year of secondary school. It was an exciting adventure, as most school trips are given the fact that you are out of the classroom for a while. However there was a degree of anxiety on my part that day as well.

Like many thousands of Belfast citizens (or as former Mayor Tom Hartley calls us ‘Béal Feirstians’) I had passed the impressive building on countless occasions without ever being in it. I remember the first Republican rally to make its way to the City Hall in the 1990s; I ventured with the crowds of people from the Short Strand as we made our way proudly over the Bridge and into the centre of the city as a republican community.

That was a good day.

But even before that day and certainly since it, the City Hall has been a major site of struggle for Irish Republicans.

(A man who would be Mayor - This photo shows Gerry Adams leaving the City Hall in 1983 with Sinn Féin activists and supporters. To his immediate right is long standing Sinn Féin Councillor for Lower Falls, Tom Hartley who was only the second Sinn Féin Mayor of the city from 2008-2009)

When I entered City Hall I couldn’t help but be impressed with the architecture and appearance of the place; that feeling is very suddenly replaced with a feeling of isolation and hostility. On that day there was not one indication, not one reflection of me, my community, our culture and our history. Due to the work of some councillors that has since changed, if only in a small way. A bust of Republican revolutionary and humanitarian Belfast woman Mary-Ann McCracken now resides proudly in the City Hall; a window commemorating the great hunger in Ireland also has a prominent spot in the building.

But even yet when I enter the City Hall the trappings of British Militarism, colonialism and monarchy are in abundance. In the year 2009 that simply isn’t good enough.

The city of Belfast has and is continually changing, the people who make up our city come from many different backgrounds, many different places, this is of course a good thing that adds to the experience of Béal Feirste.

Because it is changing, the seat of civic responsibility must also change to reflect that.

Last Thursday I was in the public gallery of the council chamber, I watched Conor Maskey of Sinn Féin make the case diligently for change in the newly refurbished and now centurion City Hall. His argument won over. With the exception of the DUP, lead by MEP Diane Dodds (I was surprised to see her given how many times I witnessed her committing herself to giving up her council seat if she was elected to the European Parliament) making typical ignorant and sectarian arguments against throwing open the doors of the City Hall and allowing the space and ability for all our people to express themselves.Sinn Féin’s argument has never, ever been about taking down what is already there, we have been about creating and solidifying the conditions where the City Hall is open to, belongs to and reflects every Béal Feirstian, whether born and reared here or new to our city.

Most notably for me, as a member of the Irish speaking community here in the city, is the commitment by the Council to commission a major piece of art to be displayed in City Hall that reflects the vibrancy and history of Gaeilgeoirí in Belfast. I look forward to seeing it!

Long gone are the days when “ULSTER SAYS NO!” banners adorned the front and back of the City Hall; gone are the days when my friend and comrade Alex Maskey was the sole Sinn Féin voice in the chamber, subjected to intimidation, vile sectarian abuse and murder attempts; gone are the days when the City Hall itself was in the sole possession of a small group of wealthy, Unionist militarists.

The City Hall is now a hub of activity, with the Belfast Wheel, with the various continental markets, with its doors soon reopening to an ever changing and positive population outside. We must continue to ensure that instead of being a monolith in the possession of on side of our community it acts as a canvass for all of us to paint on.
Many people I know are still uncomfortable with entering the City Hall, I appreciate that, my answer always is to get in and make it their own. To take the lead from Alex, from Pat Beag, from Seán, from Marie and the many more in between, the people who stood their ground and made not just a building but the whole civic nature of Belfast an equal and fair playing field.

With the co-option of Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín on Thursday, in place of Paul Maskey who remains in the Assembly, the Chamber will once again be graced with the native language of the city it represents, Béal Feirste.

Much work lies ahead to make the City Hall, quite simply put, ‘better’.

It still remains a daunting and broadly unreflective place for many people, the work to change that must be concluded.

Every day of the year the City Hall breaches equality legislation with the flying of the Union Flag above it’s ‘Dome of Delight’. It still has various statues to British Military personnel and organisations scattered throughout its grounds, with nothing but the people who gather on its lawns on the occasional sunny days we get to indicate the different makeup of Béal Feirste.

So like I said we still have some way to go to create the conditions where the hub of Belfast acts as a beacon to reflect everyone who resides here; it’s exciting work and work that Sinn Féin is committed to!

Ar aghaidh linn, achan duine, le cheile!

Indian and Gaelic cultures to meet in Belfast City Hall

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Acht Gaeilge ANOIS!!

Beidh lá ceiliúradh agus spraoi sna Margaidh ar an Domhnach seo chugainn. Tá sé ag titim amach trí bhliain i ndiaidh gealltanais a thug rialtais na Breataine go mbeadh Acht Gaeilge curtha i bhfeidhm sna Sé Chontae.

Seo imeacht difriúil óna mórshiúlta thit amach roimhe seo ach sílm gur smaoineamh den scoth é, go háirithe ina dhiaidh dom freastal ar an Mela Bhéal Feirste cúpla mí ó shin. Bhí sin ina ceiliúradh galánta de cultúr na hIndia agus na cultúrtha eile anseo sa chathair. Is ceart go raibh ceiliúradh cosúil le sin ag pobail na Gaeilge anseo fosta, leis an Acht nó gan an Acht!!

Ach ar aon nós, bígí linn agus bain sult as na himeachtaí ar fad a bheas ar fail ar an lá, beidh mé fhéin ann agus tá mé ag súil go mór leis.

Beir Bua!!

Monday, 5 October 2009

The issue of the depot hasn't gone away

For some time now, I have been lobbying the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy as well as Belfast City council on the issue of the Translink Bus Depot located in the heart of the Short Strand.

Anecdotally, the residents in our community have had firmly held beliefs that the fumes from this facility have a direct impact upon the health standards in the area; I have repeatedly called for a comprehensive health survey to study the health implications of having a large bus depot located in the middle of a small residential area.

Thus far the City Council have said that the pollution levels are within adequate levels, neither I nor the community in the Short Strand accept this.

I know, having spoken with him on this issue, that the Minister Conor Murphy shares my concerns.

It is unacceptable that the 9th most socio-economically deprived electoral ward in the north of Ireland is inflicted with what is essentially and out dated, unnecessary and dangerous bus depot.

I have lobbied Translink on this issue who have insisted that there are no immediate plans for the bus depot.

Once again I am calling on them to review the necessity of this facility and to heed the calls of the community for immediate relocation.

Sinn Féin, in conjunction with the Short Strand community have been campaigning on this issue for a long number of years; we will continue in this endeavour and intend to up the ante over the coming weeks and months.

This image shows very clearly the proximity of the depot, and therefore the fumes, to the local community. I live just across the road from the depot and have witnessed, like many others, the cloud of fumes that hangs over the area as dozens of buses start their engines there at the crack of dawn.
I have no doubt that many people support the notion that this facility needs to be relocated and the vast amount of land used for positive development in what is an already economically deprived community. I look forward to the challenge ahead.

I will be meeting with the newly formed ‘Short Strand Healthy Living Group’ later this week and I have no doubt it will be an issue for them also.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Glór an Oirthear / East Belfast Speaks!!

Some new ground was broken in east Belfast last night, not because Gerry Kelly took part in a panel discussion in that part of the town, but because the panel discussion itself took place.

For over a decade now, ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ a key event during Féile an Phobail, has brought opposing political and cultural viewpoints together to thrash out the issues of the day. It is truly an established event that has seen many groundbreaking things over it’s history.

Last night it was east Belfast’s turn.

I went along to Ashfield Boy’s School with Gerry Kelly, we had a decent discussion on what the main issues are locally; as always Gerry likes to be very clear in his head before he enters into events such as this, about what might be asked and how he intends to answer. Good practice in my humble opinion.

Also on the panel were Naomi Long of the Alliance Party, Jeffrey Donaldson DUP, Lawrence Robertson who is Tory MP in England and Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International; the event was chaired by the BBC’s Conor Bradford.

To be honest I thought the evening was pretty tame; I tweeted on the night that I thought the panel was allowed to dominate things and there wasn’t enough coming from the floor. I have been a regular attendee of ‘West Belfast Talk’s Back’ and I must say we have seen some very heated, hard, and sometimes unprecedented exchanges at that event. Last night seemed all very ‘ordinary’.

Of course Gerry Kelly came under some pressure regarding his past as an IRA Volunteer, I don’t think given the part of the world that he was in, he expected anything different. But that’s fair enough, he’s more than capable of dealing with the issue and I think at the end of the day people appreciate honesty and straightforwardness much more than trying to dodge particular issues. He made the point that he was proud of his time in the IRA but was now just as committed to peace-building and conflict resolution as he was when he was a Volunteer.

Other issues discussed, unsurprisingly, were the planned runway extension to Belfast City Airport, NAMA debt effecting development at the Titanic Quarter, Loyalist communities being abandoned and Education.

Ag deireadh na dála, I’m really not sure what to make of last night as a ‘political’ event but as an ‘event’ I enjoyed it, I thought it was worthwhile and I hope and trust that it will continue to grow and grow. East Belfast clearly lacks this type of outlet and I have no doubt with continued community interest in how the Assembly and other institutions are working more and more people will want to avail of the chance to engage directly with elected representatives.

Go n-éirí leo!!!

Sorry for the quality of the pictures, once again they were taken on the Sméar Dhubh / Blackberry