Monday, October 30, 2006

Goodbye, ghettos

I am delighted to see the launch of Ulster's first mixed-religion social housing scheme, and even more delighted that it's to be in my home town of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. The twenty families living in a particular street have signed up to a charter whereby no "side" can exceed 70%.
It's my hope and prayer that the families will get to see each other for what they really are: normal people. That the mums will lend each other baby clothes and the dads will helps each other with odd jobs. That the kids will play together and even have arguments like normal kids do.
Readers outside Northern Ireland may ask what all the fuss is about. Well, in Northern Ireland Protestant and Roman Catholics live, largely, in different areas. Their kids go to different schools. They have different names, different politics, different friends, different sports, different pubs and often different accents. Belfast and other large towns, Enniskillen included, have "Protestant estates" and "Catholic estates". As a Protestant, I'd have no problem visiting friends in Derrychara, but I remember once being scared out of my wits driving up Kilmacormack. My Catholic compatriots have it the other way around. Daft, eh? Yet that's what we've grown up with.
A hundred years from now, maybe this council initiative, like integrated schooling, will be seen as one of the first groundbreaking moves at an everyday level towards an equitable society in our northern part of Ireland. I hope so. Big move. Hat off.


At 7:44 p.m., Anonymous aileen said...

"It's my hope and prayer that the families will get to see each other for what they really are: normal people. "


Why would you think that they don't already.

At 12:58 a.m., Blogger Chris Gaskin said...

The twenty families living in a particular street have signed up to a charter whereby no "side" can exceed 70%.

Firstly this charter has no legal standing. Secondly I oppose this for the following reason.

Social housing is about need first and foremost. What happens if the greater need is from Catholics or indeed Protestants?

Housing on the basis of need, not religion!

At 12:44 p.m., Anonymous tony said...

I agree with the spirit of this Chris. Build more estates when the need arises, anything to stop a N. Belfast type aparthied.

Hopefully before too long the bigots will just get on with their lives and there will be no need for this.

At 10:44 p.m., Blogger El Matador said...

Presumably these houses will still be distributed under the tight (but perhaps not very effective) guidelines under which the Housing Executive must operate.

I think it's an excellent idea which, if properly managed, could be of great benefit to the community at large. Apparently Belfast's estates are 97% segregated, which is absolutely crazy. Why should people be forced to live in an area dominated by paramilitary symbols and devoid of people from other religions simply because they cannot afford to buy their own homes?

At 4:53 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

I'm curious. Where do the jews, muslims and hindus go to live? I remember hearing about when the Willowfield theatre was being converted. Some of the local "bhoys" came to check it out. They were greeted by the resident cleric. He assured them that it was a Hindu temple. After the grand tour and seeing everything they were doing with many assurances that it was a Hindu temple, the question was "Is that protestant Hindu or catholic Hindu?" What can you do with that kind of ignorance?

At 10:15 a.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Chris, I'm normally against positive discrimination, but I welcome this arrangement because of the overriding importance of ensuring people like me get to know people like you from an early age.
Segregation breeds myths about the other side, and this is a great way of helping take the myths out of Irish society.

At 3:14 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am visiting home next Summer and my American wife wants to see N Ireland. I am very leary of visiting, I feel my Southern accent might cause trouble. I visited many times in the past, but now I would have my wife and 2 year old son. Its not safe!

At 12:24 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please dont worry your accent wont cause any problem whatsoever.I am protestant married to a catholic from the south and she tells me she has never encountered a problem .

At 11:01 p.m., Blogger El Matador said...

Having read more about this scheme, it turns out that the houses were not just handed out willy-nilly, but to the people most in need. Basically they went down the list asking if people were happy to be moved into this estate, so the argument that they weren't given out on the basis of need is groundless.

At 11:51 p.m., Blogger The Phantom said...

This is a good idea, I believe.

But shouldn't be there be more of an effort away from government owned housing estates, and towards helping people own their own homes?


Post a Comment

<< Home