Belfast Telegraph

Mixed reactions to landmark demolition

by Natalie Irvine

The scheduled demolition this week of an Edwardian house that has fallen into disrepair, has received a mixed reception from the local community.

Once home to Woodvale MP John William Nixon,‘Woodvale House’ on the lower Ballygomartin Road is to be knocked down to make way for a nursing home.

Shankill DUP Councillor Brian Kingston has expressed his disappointment at the loss of what was a “grand dwelling” overlooking Woodvale Park. “Its deterioration and pending demolition is a great loss to the built heritage of the Woodvale / Ballygomartin area. Sadly it has been derelict for many years and has deteriorated into a dangerous condition.

“Its most famous former resident was John William Nixon, a District Inspector in the Royal Irish/Ulster Constabulary, in the years before and after partition. Nixon, originally from Co Cavan, went on to represent Woodvale constituency on the Belfast Corporation and at Stormont as an independent Unionist MP from 1929 until his death in 1949,” he said.

“He was known as a strong local character and was awarded the MBE in 1923 ‘for services rendered during the troubled period’. He was accused by some writers of involvement in sectarian murder, claims which he successfully contested as libellous in court.

“Plans are being brought forward to build a replacement nursing home on the site, which I trust will be in keeping with the character of the area. Perhaps an image of Woodvale House can be included within the new premises as a reminder of the once grand and historic villa which preceded it at this prime location.”

Mr Nixon served as District Inspector for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) at the time of the McMahon murders in 1922 when six Catholic civilians — including five members of one family — were killed in their home.

It was reported that they were shot dead by members of the USC and RIC in retaliation for the IRA’s shooting of two policemen days earlier. The dead were aged between 15 and 50.

Sinn Fein Councillor Conor Maskey said it was widely suspected that Mr Nixon was involved in the McMahon murders.

“This isn’t an issue about whether or not a historical building should be retained because part of the background of this is particularly drenched in controversy. The fact that a very large number of units are going to be created on this site to house older people is something we should all welcome and embrace rather than try to stifle.”

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