SDLP fury over shared housing plan
The SDLP has threatened to pull the plug on its support for a controversial new housing programme in north Belfast.
The regeneration of Girdwood Barracks has been on hold for years because of wrangling between nationalists and unionists over housing allocation.
Last Monday a new plan was unveiled but it came under fire with some accusing it of doing nothing to quell sectarianism or promote a shared future.
The SDLP’s Dolores Kelly said it had been a carve-up between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Mrs Kelly told the BBC the vast majority of people waiting for housing in the area are from the nationalist community, and said: “Some people are wondering what was the price of Sinn Fein selling out housing need in Ardoyne.
“People think the DUP rolled over on the Maze/Long Kesh conflict transformation centre in return for this deal in Girdwood.
“It's absolutely dreadful.”
The SDLP had met at the weekend to discuss Girdwood, and were considering lodging a complaint with the Equality Commission, according to Mrs Kelly.
Last year the green light was given to the building of 200 new homes on the site.
But the decision was labelled as “deeply destabilising” by the DUP and reversed when party member Nelson McCausland was made Social Development Minister.
That department took over the 27-acre site in 2006.
Mrs Kelly said the issue should have been discussed by the Executive, claiming her party had been left in the dark over the plans.
In response, DUP MLA Jonathan Bell, said: “The plan says 90% of this site will be shared space, because you can't force people to live beside each other.
“Alban Maginness (SDLP) and all the elected representatives worked out a plan that got the maximum amount of consensus.
“Housing can only be allocated on the basis of need — the law is very clear on the matter.”
Mrs Kelly said Mr Maginness had given a qualified welcome to the plan on Monday as he had engaged in talks at Belfast City Council in “in good faith” regarding the issue.