Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

CSI Belfast is no thriller but it will run and run

I don't know about you but whenever I hear the acronym CSI it isn't the bearded frown of David Ford that immediately flits to mind but the stern, unwavering gaze of Dr Gil Grissom, forensic entomologist, Clark County, Nevada.

Who, you might ask? ("Whoooo are you? Hoo oo, ooo oo ... ")

Gil, for those who are not up to speed with crime lab drama is the star of the American TV series CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).

The original show, set in Las Vegas, was so successful that it not only spawned a whole CSI franchise of spin-offs (CSI Miami, CSI New York) but is credited with boosting an upsurge of interest in forensic science degree courses worldwide.

Impressive stuff.

CSI Belfast is, sadly, a whole lot less compulsive viewing.

The CSI here stands for Cohesion (stifle that yawn), Sharing and Integration.

And our Assembly has thrown considerable resources, time, effort and needless to say, taxpayers' money into developing a CSI strategy.

But are we anymore cohesive, sharing and integrated as a result?

Do we even need to ask?

For evidence we have only to look at the hoo-ha surrounding the former Girdwood Army barracks in North Belfast.

We don't need to rake over here all the to-ing and fro-ing that has taken place down the years.

Suffice to say that this big building site is in an area where housing need is desperate (around 2,000 people are reported to be on local housing lists) but somehow our leaders (not just DUP/Sinn Fein) seem unable to agree on the allocation process.

Some want all the houses to go to one side of the local community. Some want a proportion to go to each side.

Some say surely if we're talking about a shared future any development should be mixed housing. There is talk of sectarian carve-up. DUP/Sinn Fein carve-up. Apartheid. And perpetuating division. The actual plans show two surprisingly small (I think, anyway) blocs of residential housing - one nationalist, one unionist - separated by a gulf of "shared" indoor community centre, outdoor sports pitch and car parks.

(I am all for green space in the city environment. But couldn't a few more houses have been squeezed in?)

If you were to draw up a blueprint for non-cohesive, unsharing division this would be it.

And you don't need to be a forensic scientist to spot that actually that's pretty much the template for wider society in this place.

Peter may love Martin, true. (And vice versa) And they may trot along to the photographic opportunities afforded by a night on the terraces (GAA or Norn Iron.)

But in the wider world that's about as sharing as it gets.

Sadly, to date, Stormont's much-trumpeted CSI strategy has been as much about the lunacy of politicians fighting over cohesion policy as it has been about real results.

At the heart of so many of our problems there remains that simple, complex and enduring question.

Just how do you mix two sides of a community who often just do not want to mix?

That's the conundrum facing our leaders and sadly thus far all they have proved is that they don't seem to have the first notion.

Conflict, Sectarianism and Interfaces.

As the man in Las Vegas might say, what's happened in Belfast stays in Belfast.

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