Belfast Telegraph

We have nothing to say - residents remain reluctant to voice views

By Mark Bain

It's a sunny Monday afternoon in a peaceful part of south east Belfast where children are playing in the street and mums have a chat over the garden fence.

But yesterday morning, Cantrell Close and neighbouring Global Crescent off Ravenhill Avenue again were thrust into the political spotlight after banners depicting IRA atrocities were placed on lampposts in the area. They featured Bloody Friday and the bombings at La Mon, Shankill Road, the Mountainview Tavern and Enniskillen - a grim tour of IRA terrorism.

 

But it was almost as if the residents were letting the controversy sail above their heads.

The new housing scheme in the area was designed to be a mixed religion residential zone, breaking down barriers.

The well-appointed developments paint a picture of prim, polite suburbia. Cantrell Close itself comprises 41 two-storey homes, each with a tidy lawn and a garden fence, lining a quiet road with a shiny new bicycle rack at one end and a speed bump at the other. All the trappings of modern suburban living.

Yesterday, few were willing to say much about the controversial banners.

"We'll leave it to the politicians. We're just trying to live here," said one resident.

Another added: "We're just out watching the kids play. We have nothing to say."

No-one is willing to give a name. You can sense they do have something to say, but would simply rather get on with their lives. Only one resident, who also did not want to be identified, spoke out.

"As I see it the only people who would be offended by these banners are the IRA," he said. "Republicans and nationalists.

"There were a lot of tragedies during the Troubles. These banners all show tragedies. People should have no problem with them.

"We hear plenty about Bloody Sunday and Loughgall, but it's about time something raised the profile of what the IRA inflicted on the people of Northern Ireland.

"We need to remember that these events happened as well."

But John McLean, chief executive of Radius Housing which manages the residential area, said the banners should be removed immediately.

"There was no consultation with the people who live in this area and the imagery used is not appropriate for a shared living scheme which is home to families from all backgrounds," he commented.

"We have been in contact with the PSNI, as well as local elected representatives, and our staff have been on site to ensure that everyone can enjoy living in their homes and local community without any type of intimidation.

"Our prime concern is the welfare of the people who live in Cantrell Close and Global Crescent, and they should not be the focus of a wider political debate."

Last year the area came under the spotlight when families moved out of their homes after UVF flags were erected.

Last month loyalist flags were removed. The East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) said it had agreed a protocol on the flying of flags in the area. However, flags were later erected at Ravenhill Avenue which were said to have been put up outside the protocol and by an "unconnected private individual".

The latest banners have been erected by local members of the community with the support of EBCI.

Belfast Telegraph

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