Saturday, 14 May 2011

Job Done

So sin é - Elections 2011 are over (at least until the by-election in west Béal Feirste next month!)

There's a lot I'd like to and probably should say, but for fear of loosing you, the faithful reader, I will simply thank all of those who placed their trust in me as well as Sinn Féin and decided to elect me to Belfast City Council.

For all candidates the run up to an election is hectic; from one door to another:

"Hello, my name is Niall Ó Donnghaile; I'm the Sinn Féin candidate for the Election on May 5th. I was just wondering if you had a few minutes for a chat or if there are any issues you wish to raise?"

I sometimes wonder am I repeating this mantra in my sleep?

But for all my messing, mantra or not, it paid off in the end!

To polling day itself; after a period of brilliant weather, my 5am rise was greeted with dull and drizzly weather - typical!

As always, we ventured to St Matthews School, awaiting, what we hoped, would be a vast influx of Sinn Féin voters. As the day went on, we weren't disappointed.

Thanks to those who opened up their homes (and fridges and kitchen cupboards) to our activists working hard on the day and allowed us the space to turn their homes into something resembling the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, with people shouting figures across the room, computers wizzing, printers printing and wires galore we were lucky no one tripped!

As polling day progressed, it became clear that some of the Electoral Office staff weren't entirely ofay with what had to be done given the fact that there were three different ballots on the one day - it also became clear that the three papers were causing a lot of confusion, particularly for our older citizens. We stressed with them the need to improve the process of giving people papers, explaining what they to do and allowing them the chance to exercise their vote. After some time the process improved and we are thankful to the staff for their work on the day.

As the evening drew in we were glad to see a rush of people, returning home from university, work, (special mention to the one who came all the way from Kerry!) and other places to cast their votes - it also saw our team swelling as supporters wanted to play their part in what had the potential to be a great victory.

Again Sinn Féin thanks them all and thanks everyone who voted Sinn Féin number one or indeed those who didn't but heeded our message that sometimes a transfer was just as important!

As for the Assembly Count in Newtonards - well that's a blog (or novel!) for another time.

I am delighted to have been elected to represent the people of Pottinger in City Hall; I look forward to working with my fellow Councillors for the area on the issues affecting our people day and daily on the ground.

For too long now many people (including some from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community) felt that having solely Unionist representation for Pottinger was not allowing a voice for many citizens, particularly those in working class inner east Belfast - following this weeks result, one thing is for certain, that is about to change.

As for Béal Feirste over all - Sinn Féin is again the largest party increasing our share of seats under the 'Dome of Delight' from 14 to 16 - many of us were bitterly disappointed (particularly given the year that's in it) not to be welcoming Mary Doyle, former Armagh protesting POW and Hunger Striker, onto the Council with us. Also the loss of Briege Bownlee, herself a former protesting POW, will no doubt be a blow to the people of the lower Falls who will fell the loss of her hard work on Council the most.

I have no doubt that both women will continue to work for our people and ensure a voice for them enters into City Hall next time around.

As for my newly elected and re-elected comrades; I look forward to working with and helping them all over the term of Belfast City Council. Go n-eirí linn!

A few short weeks ago at Easter, I had the tremendous honour and privilege to speak at the Republican monument in the Short Strand, 'An Tine Bheo'.

I spoke about the importance of what An Tine Bheo (The Living Flame) meant for Republicans right across Ireland as we continue to grow and advance our republican project.

For me An Tine Bheo is the legacy left to us by the men and women who have gone before; who struggled, fought, campaigned, protested and died in pursuit of our ultimate objectives. We continue to take our lead, our inspiration, our courage and our determination from them as we pursue a new era of republican struggle.

An Tine Bheo is not bricks or mortar; it is in us; it is of us; and now it shines brighter than ever in Stormont, in Leinster House, Belfast City Hall and in institutions right across Ireland and beyond.

Beirigí Bua!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Election Campaign 2011

Apologies for the lack of blogging in recent times, while other candidates seems to go into blogging overdrive I can't seem to find the time between putting up posters and rapping doors!

I handed in my nomination papers for the Assembly election yesterday (thanks to everyone who signed them!) at Newtonards. Our photo shows me and my election agent Hugh. Next week I'll submit my nomination papers for the Council elections at Belfast City Hall alongside the other Sinn Féin candidates.

It's a busy time and while every other candidate will tell you canvasses have been 'great', 'brilliant', 'wonderful' srl, I have been happy with the feedback on my own up to this point.

People tend to use the opportunity to either declare their support for what you're doing, raise issues with you, remind you it's they who have the power to elect someone, or indeed tell you to clear off and never darken their door again!

With yesterday evening turning out to have such a bright and pleasant end to the day, we found a lot of people weren't at home while we were on the canvass trail; and who could blame people for taking the opportunity to venture over the bridge for some late shopping or take the kids for a kickabout up in Cherryvale? Or dare I say it, even slide round for a pint or two in St Matts or the Strand Bar??

We were also canvassing in Ravenhill last night, and I'm glad to see people were aware of the fact that in that particular part of the City they vote for Alex Maskey as the south Belfast Assembly candidate and me as the Pottinger Council candidate.

Sin an dóigh!

Well, I'm off for now and will keep up the canvassing and leafleting over the weekend. Maybe if you don't see me on the blog as much we might bump into each other on the door. Beirigí Bua!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Ó Donnghaile: Campaign for alley-gates in Short Strand goes on

Here's a copy of a press release issued from me earlier today:

Sinn Féin candidate for Pottinger Niall Ó Donnghaile has said his party’s campaign to secure alley-gates for a number of streets in the Short Strand will continue.

Speaking from the area this morning Niall said;

“For some time now Sinn Féin, alongside residents in the Strand, has been campaigning to secure much needed alley-gates for a number of streets in the district.

In particular, the entry at Beechfield Street has presented consistent anti social problems which we have raised with the City Council and other statutory agencies for some time now.

Recently I chaired a meeting between Sinn Féin representatives, St Matthews Housing Association, Short Strand Community Forum, the PSNI and Belfast City Council all of whom were very clear about the immediate need for gates at this entry.

In fact the representatives from the Council made clear to those of us in attendance, that Beechfield Street was top of a citywide list for alley-gates, should additional monies become available.

The fact that this matter has gone on for so long, while other areas have secured alley-gating schemes, just goes to show the neglect of this community at a Council level over the past six years.

I commit myself to continue to work on this issue, confident that with the continued support of residents and community representatives we will be able to secure these gates.” CRÍOCH

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A good buzz around the place......

Photographed with the Rev Jesse Jackson are: myself, Cllr Deirdre Hargey, Alex Maskey MLA and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Great buzz around Stormont yesterday for the arrival of Sinn Féin's All-Ireland Team of elected representatives.

TDs (rightfully so!) strolled relaxed through the once hallowed halls of Stormont, being greeted by DUP Speaker of the House Willy Haye.

Other parties were noticeably absent around the building when the evidence of Sinn Féin's national representation became clear for all to see.

One notorious tweeting MLA, who is never too shy in getting his mug on the TV, walked past several times, aghast and open mouthed, in disbelieve at what he was seeing. Of course his party either doesn't want to get involved in 'Irish' politics or on the other hand can't make up it's mind which of the Free State parties it wants to climb into bed with!

But sure as we say as Ghaeilge, ‘sin scéal eile’!

Last night we kicked off the canvass proper in the Short Strand. We have been out and about doing registration over the last few weeks and of course are always in the area engaging with people but last night was the beginning of the campaign proper. People were welcoming, friendly and positive and I thank them for taking the time to speak with us and look forward to continued engagement over the coming weeks!

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting with Civil Rights Champion Rev Jesse Jackson as he visited St George’s Boxing Club in the Market area. His presence and words had an immediate impact on everyone gathered and for taking the time to speak with everyone gathered we thank him.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Conor Murphy returns to Short Strand

Conor Murphy returns to Short Strand

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy today visited the Short Strand to meet with representatives of the local Partnership Board.

The purpose of his visit was so we could put our case forward for a new lay-by at the proposed childcare facility at Pottinger’s Quay.

I’ve blogged about our plans here

Conor and I were joined by interim Dirctor of the board Patricia Johnson and fellow board members Mairéad O’Donnell, Patrick Devlin, Conor Keenan, Jacquline O'Donnell and others.

Conor was joined by officials from Roads Service who seemed more than willing to take our ideas and plans forward; we very much look forward to continuing to work with them on this exciting local project.

We also stopped by the land at the former Mountpottinger Barracks site to keep Conor up to speed on the plans for the development of social housing.

We also thanked Conor and Roads Service for securing traffic calming measures for several streets in the area; Edgar Street, Madrid Street and Bryson Street.
Other political parties have tried to lay claim to this achievement but thankfully locally people saw their cynical move for what it was and can easily see through it as a bit of an election stunt.

I blogged on Conor’s previous visit here

In the meantime here are some pictures from today

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Got to Dance!

Strand Extreme are one of Belfast’s premier dancing troops!

The local hip-hoppers have been to so many championships and won so many titles ive lost count.

One thing that is for sure is that these kids can move.

Particular praise must go to the parents of the kids who have tramped the streets of the Strand in all kinds of weather, as have the dancers themselves, to collect money for Strand Extreme Hoodies, transport and all-round general assistance.

I think it’s fair to say that the people in our area have been very forthcoming in their willingness to help out and fair play to them.

I first encountered Strand Extreme when they ventured one night into St Matthews Club shaking their buckets and putting the onus on those of us who are all so often prepared to criticise the younger members of our community, to put our money where our mouth is and dig deep to help support them!

And they did a brilliant showcase of their dancing that night.

That’s why, with the help of Simon Little from Phoenix Gas’ ‘Energy for Children’ charity I was delighted to have been able to help secure £1700 for new equipment and gear for Strand Extreme and the Doyle Youth Club.

I certainly look forward to continuing to work with Energy for Children to see what continued support they can offer to our young people and those many people who give up their time to provide what is one of Belfast’s, if not Ireland’s, best youth facilities.

Big well done to Coocher and Leanna and everyone involved with Strand Extreme and the Doyle for all the hard work they put in.

Go neirí libh go léir!
NB: Our photo shows me with the Strand Extreme boys & girls as well as their teacher Leanna, senior youth worker at the Doyle, Paul 'Coocher' McCrory and Simon Little from Phoenix Gas on the left

Beep!! Beep!!

Action Cancer’s Big Bus passes through the Strand

This week I, along with other community workers and representatives, welcomed the Action Cancer Big Bus into the Short Strand once more.

The service provide by this facility is valuable and I was delighted to hear that by mid-morning many local people had called into the bus and also into the Doyle where other health tests and services were available.

I want to commend everyone who helped put the Health Day together and thank all those who came in to offer their services. I have no doubt we’ll look to have them all back again soon!

Our photo shows me (usually I avoid heights!) with some of the organisers and workers at the Action Cancer Big Bus which set up home outside the Doyle all day.

St Matthews Attacked

This morning, as I have sadly done numerous times before, I ventured to St Matthews Chapel having just received a phone call to say that the Church had been attacked.

As we all know St Matthews is no stranger to attacks and I have blogged on some of them in the past.

Obviously this paint attack was particularly upsetting to those attending Mass this morning, who, despite the countless attacks on this beautiful building over the years, never get used to it. Of particular concern to the Parish is the damage caused to the spotlights, which nightly light up the stunning edifice of the Chapel, which were smashed and the cost of repair will no doubt run into the thousands.

Here's a copy of the press release I issued today and our photo shows PUP Leader Brian Ervine who, along with party colleague called to see the damage caused to themselves.

That small gesture, alongside the occasion when myself, Joe O'Donnell and Bernie Black went across to the memorial on the Newtonards Road, show that both communities want these attacks to stop and stop now.

Ó Donnghaile condemns attack on St Matthews Chapel

Sinn Féin representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile has slammed those responsible for an attack on St Mathews Chapel last night and has called for community leaders from all sections of the community to show leadership in order to send a clear message to those behind it.

The church had paint thrown at it and several of its exterior spotlights smashed, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Speaking this morning Mr Ó Donnghaile said:

“This attack in wholly unjustifiable and has caused considerable damage. As many parishioners came to mass this morning they were understandably very upset at the damage caused.

“These type of attacks are unfortunately a sporadic occurrence with particular groupings of young people from both sections of our community, who are well known to the PSNI, causing damage and upset on both sides of the interface.

“I along with other community representatives within the Short Strand did not back away from our responsibilities when the local memorial on the Newtownards Road was attacked and vandalised. I was glad to welcome Brian Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party to St Matthews so he could see the damage for himself; I commend him for that stand he has taken today and I believe that we can collectively send a message on behalf of our communities that we want this to stop and stop now.” CRÍOCH

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Let's get the ball rolling

Members of the Short Strand Partnership Board come together at the site of the former Mountpottinger Barracks site - News that housing is to be built on the site follows a long and hard fought campaign by the community in the area to see this vision realised

Our Pic shows me with Patricia Johnson (Interim Director Short Strand Partnership), Mairead O'Donnell (Short Strand Partnership), myself, Patrick Devlin (Chairman St Matthews Housing Association & Short Strand Partnership) and Jim Black (Director St Matthews Housing Association)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Statement from Short Strand Partnership

Short Strand Partnership Board delighted at Housing for Mountpottinger

The Short Strand Partnership Board have expressed their delight at the announcement from the DSD this morning that the land left vacant following the demolition of Mountpottinger Barracks is be acquired for the purposes of developing social housing.

Interim Board Director Patricia Johnson, Chair of St Matthews Housing Association Patrick Devlin and local Sinn Féin Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile all welcomed the news.

In a joint statement they said;

“Our Partnership has always endorsed the position that this land would be best suited for the development of quality, social housing. We have been part of a long campaign and today’s news is no doubt a result of that hard work.

We look forward to seeing this land developed without delay.

Obviously it will be hugely beneficial for our community and once again we would encourage our neighbours who are in need of housing to ensure their name is on the Housing Executive’s waiting list. It is vital that we see this land best utilised for the common good of our community in a speedy and responsible fashion.

We have no doubt that our local, community based Housing Association, St Matthews, would be in an ideal position to take this exciting development forward.

What we need to see now is a meaningful engagement between the Department and ourselves in the local community.” ENDS

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Conor Murphy to visit Short Strand once more

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy will again visit the Short Strand next month to meet myself and other representatives from the Short Strand Partnership Board.

The purpose of Conor’s visit, where he will be joined by officials from Roads Service, is for us to make the case for improved traffic access at the soon to be childcare facility at Pottinger’s Quay, ‘Water babies’.

As you may be aware the Partnership has acquired the ground floor space at ‘Pottinger’s Quay’ (at the junction of the Short Strand and Albertbridge Road) to develop an exciting new childcare/crèche facility which will provide much needed services not just for people in the Short Strand and inner east Belfast, but for many people travelling into work in Belfast city centre who can avail of the service.

This exciting project will also provide much needed jobs for people from the locality who have been fully trained in childcare provision. It will also allow for further training opportunities in this industry for young people from the locality.

With the support of a number of partners we hope to see the development open as soon as possible and given the predicted demand for space at the ‘Waterbabies’ crèche it is our view that changes to the current road layout would be necessary to create a safe space for parents to drop off and collect their children.

So positive opportunities lie ahead and much like Conor has been able to assist the community in other ways, we are confident he will do his best for us in relation to this.

Also worth pointing out I have contacted Housing Minister Alex Attwood inviting him to a site visit to the now vacant land at the former Mountpottinger Barracks site. I look forward to welcoming him to the Strand and making the case once again that the community want and need good quality social and family homes.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

An explanation please?

No, not of the sign in the picture, like most multi-lingual signage that's very straightforward and easy to understand!
Unless of course you're in the Alliance Party, for whatever reason, they are of the opinion that it's, "divisive", "confusing" and probably worst of all, "tribal".
Personally, I don't see it.
But while the Alliance Party seek to retain the votes they recieved within Unionist East Belfast at the last election, perhaps they could actually come out and tell us 'how' this kind of signage (in areas of course where there is a demand for them and where they are sought out) would be "divisive", "confusing" and "tribal"????
PS: I snapped the picture while canvassing in Chapelizod for sitting Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Housing Executive must step up

This is me with Billy McDonagh.

Billy lives in a bungalow in the Short Strand.

Before Christmas during the freeze Billy rang me to say he was very concerned about the conditions of the windows in his home. This isn’t the first time Billy has been in touch, on numerous occasions I have had to lobby the Housing Executive and their contractors on his behalf.

The extreme weather exacerbated many of his concerns about the condition of his home and despite numerous visits from contractors, no substantial repair work has been carried out to his property.

Without doubt, the impact on Billy’s health has been negative.

During a meeting Sinn Féin held with the Chief Executive, Chairperson and senior management staff from the Housing Executive, I raised Billy’s case directly with them.

But back to the phone call Billy made to me pre-Christmas; he informed me that despite putting oil in the tank and having the heating on, large clumps of ice were forming around the INSIDE of his window frames. I checked the heating and while not an expert, to me it seemed to be working fine. As for his windows, I had never seen anything like it, the only thing I can think of to describe is similar to the ice that forms around the inside of your freezer door.
It is clear that despite his heating being on, Billy's home is loosing it through the unsuitable windows. Billy has informed me that on some occasions he wakes up in the morning and is able to see his breath.

This gives Billy and I cause for serious concern.
Following the holidays I also contacted the local Housing Executive and urged them to review Billy’s case without delay; they have agreed, but over a week has passed with no one coming to see him. While appreciating the Housing Executive are dealing with a substantial backlog of work, given the serious impact on Billy’s health and wellbeing, it baffles me how so much time would be allowed to lapse without even coming out to asses the condition of his home.

Billy makes the case and I support him in this, that his wooden windows are not up to scratch and it is our view that the Housing Executive should seek to replace them with more appropriate UPVC windows.

Appropriately Billy took a number of photos of the conditions of his windows during the freeze and these can indeed be passed onto the Housing Executive.

For our part, south & east Belfast Sinn Féin will be seeking a meeting with the Housing executive management to discuss this and a number of outstanding issues.

Don’t forget you can get in touch with our office if you need assistance on an issue like this or any other @ or 02890243194

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Press Release

Press Release issued earlier in relation to the PSNI seizing over £200,000 worth of drugs within Pottinger

Ó Donnghaile welcomes Ravenhill drugs seizure

Sinn Féin Representative for Pottinger Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed today’s seizure of more than £200,000 worth of cannabis in the London Street area of Ravenhill.

Speaking this afternoon Niall said;

“Obviously any move to take illegal drugs off our streets is to be welcomed.

For some time now Sinn Féin have been raising the concerns of residents across the Pottinger area directly with the PSNI about apparent increases in drug dealing in the constituency.

As a community we must all ensure we stand against those who would peddle drugs within our areas.” CRÍOCH

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


.....GIVE US HOMES!!!!

Here I am at the junction of Madrid Street while workers continue the work to demolish the former Mountpottinger PSNI Barracks.

At this stage regular readers are more than familiar with Sinn Féin and the Short Strand Community's long campaign to have this Barracks demolished and social, family homes put in it's place.

Images like this certainly highlight the success of our campaign!

I have been in contact with the contractor regarding the timeframe for complete removal of the base and continue to lobby the Department of Social Development on the urgent need for the site to be acquired and utilised for high standard family homes.

More to follow and as always I'll keep you informed.

Beir Bua


Thursday, 6 January 2011

New Year

Bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibh uilig

I haven't been blogging as regularly these days, between Christmas, snow and a broken boiler and burst pipe here and there, those of us involved in community activism have been somewhat focused on issues on the ground.

While I hope to blog much more extensively on the issue of the severe weather and the crisis which followed, as well as the negative and difficult experience of many constituents, perhaps this short video will give you at least some insight into what Sinn Féin has been doing in recent weeks.