This morning I attended the launch of a new mural near Pitt Park on the lower Newtonards Road.
The mural is entitled ‘No more’ and depicts young people from the lower Newtonards Road and the Short Strand coming together.
The mural includes a poem written by local community worker Jim Wilson and his grandson Dylan (who is one of the young people depicted in the mural). Dearbhlagh from the Short Strand is the other young person depicted.
I was delighted to have been invited to attend this morning’s unveiling and well done to Jim and Joe O’Donnell from the Short Strand Partnership who have been working alongside a number of us on various projects in this part of the city.
Often these types of murals could be branded as ‘tokenistic’ and maybe in some cases that’s correct; in this instance however I don’t think that applies. The reason I say this is because this mural (and the mural which will be launched in the Strand over the coming weeks) aren’t happening in isolation. There is work ongoing at a grassroots level like never before; the very fact that I as the Sinn Féin candidate in the upcoming election, was able to go and stand on the lower Newtonards Road, is indicative of just how much we are trying to improve relations for the benefit of both communities.
More often than not our work happens behind closed doors, out of sight, this morning’s event however allowed some of the many people involved in this important work to come out and be recognised for the unprecedented work they are involved in. I am more than happy to play my small part in trying to move us from a situation where anti social activity on the interfaces is impacting so negatively on our communities to a place where there is mutual understanding, possibly even mutual respect for where each community is coming from.
I am proud of the fact that I am an Irish Republican, I know the people in Pitt Park are proud of their viewpoint as well and that’s fair enough; what strikes me, as someone involved in this work, is that we aren’t going to agree on everything, but we can work to help our community. This is particularly relevant in somewhere like east Belfast with all the economic, employment and investment opportunities that will present themselves over the coming years.
Again, I commend all those involved in today’s mural launch and look forward to the rolling out of this project over the coming period; I also look forward to continued engagement between our communities and hope that together we can play our role in ensuring a safer environment and better physical surroundings for everyone.