Belfast City Council, having carried out a consultation survey (at what cost?), has agreed that it is now ready to steam ahead with plans to erect bilingual street signs in the city.
All it will take, we’re told, is for one householder, or a Belfast City councillor, to suggest such signage should be put up in Such And Such Street and then another local consultation survey (at what cost?) will be carried out.
And if the number of consulted residents who are in favour passes a certain percentage then the bilingual writing will be on the wall.
Good for Belfast City councillors. Never take the simple route when you can insert a roundabout or two.
What happened to common sense? Why not just put the things up (in those places where they’re obviously wanted) and have done with it?
We all know (and so do Belfast City councillors) that there are parts of the city where consensus for these signs will be almost unanimous and they will be greeted with pride. There are other areas where a distinct majority will welcome them too. And further areas where they will cause ructions, division and defacement. You don’t need a consultation survey to work that out.
The ongoing absurdity is that our elected representatives seem to be more focused on street signs than what’s actually going on in the streets.
So, to paraphrase Ralph McTell, let me take them by the hand and lead them through the streets of Belfast.
I’ll begin this journey up around the Dublin Road. I’m walking into town there, a few weeks ago, on a Saturday afternoon.
There’s a middle-aged woman coming towards me. There’s a look of utter distress on her face — even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.
She’s holding up a young man (her son maybe), hauling him along. He’s tilted towards her, his eyes staring ahead but focusing on nothing.
It’s the colour of his face that shocks me most; I’ve never seen anyone as deathly pale as that outside of a coffin.
You don’t need to ask what’s going on. Drugs. Another victim of the rats that infest Belfast city centre plying poison to the desperate.
Even in the main city streets you see them doing this openly, audaciously, unchallenged. Where are the police? It says something that on a brief walk around the city centre any day, you’re likely to spot more drug dealers than officers.
In some streets you’ll see a car draw up, the window down, a quick transaction. Not all these customers are rough sleepers, by a long chalk. But you don’t have to look too far to spot some poor soul lying in a doorway, completely out of it.
In 2022 to date, it is understood there have been 34 drug-related deaths in the greater Belfast area. At least 15 people have died from drugs in the city in the past couple of months.
Family members have spoken to this paper about the human loss behind those statistics — what it’s like to lose a much-loved young man or woman, someone good, kindly, decent and precious whose future was stolen by addiction and by the vultures who prey on the vulnerable.
Belfast is in the grips of a crisis that is dangerously close to spiralling out of containment. It’s an emergency. So why isn’t it being treated like one?
One of the most dismaying realities is that the people who are most concerned about this emergency don’t appear to be the authorities who have the clout and the funding, but the charities and the volunteer workers who do so much to protect and support and, in many cases, save the lives of street people.
The authorities, for their part, make all the right noises — they’re committed to this, they’re committed to that, they’re seeking solutions, it’s a complex situation.
And, yes of course, it is one that won’t be turned around overnight. But an emergency requires concerted emergency action from all agencies, not fine words — and action now, not when the summer holiday period is over.
Belfast City Council has held a “special meeting” with the PSNI and other involved parties to discuss the issue. So where is the strategy? More to the point, why hasn’t something been done before now?
How many more special meetings will it take? How many more deaths? For the signs on the streets of further heart-rending tragedy are, sadly, all too easy to read.
No winners in Wagatha Christie trial
Before the judge revealed the denouement of the Wagatha Christie case, wherein Rebekah Vardy lost the libel case against Coleen Rooney, Coleen was reported to have told friends that “whatever happens, I’ve won”. No, you haven’t. From the standpoint of ordinary punters battling with cost-of-living stringencies, neither party emerges with credit or dignity. The only winners were the lawyers. The only dignity shown was by Peter Andre, dragged into it over slights about his manhood. The other pair came across as two eejits scrapping over gossip at a cost of millions. Judge Rinder would have sorted it for free.
Trimble deserves to be in history books
The death of Lord David Trimble has rightly been marked by countless tributes saluting his role as architect of the Good Friday Agreement. Not all who opposed it were extremists; many were Troubles victims who just could not stomach the idea of killers walking free. That will have weighed as heavy on the man as any threat to his life. Like the other greats, John Hume and Seamus Mallon, David Trimble’s name is now folded into the history books. His courage was exceptional. And his wife, Daphne, his daughters and sons also faced down those threats. We all owe David Trimble. We owe his family too.
Crossing a fine line...
A Garda car has been spotted over the border in Co Tyrone. Does Mary Lou know something we don’t? As concerned DUP politicians have pointed out, surely, after a couple of miles, the occupants would have noticed they were in Northern Ireland. Maybe they had heard of a good chippie in the area. I don’t think we’re dealing with a major international diplomatic incident, but I would worry about the detection skills of the officers involved. If you fail to cop when you’re in a different jurisdiction, you’re not the makings of the next Colombo