Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tim Attwood's 'foot in mouth'

The SDLP is really an utter shambles and now Councillor Tim Attwood, brother of Alex Attwood, brings us another example of 'foot in mouth disease'.
The Irish News (Saturday 15 December) carried a report on 92 sites in Belfast that have been acquired over the years by Belfast Regeneration Office, which is part of the Department for Social Development.
Many of the sites are on the market for sale but the current state of the property market means that there is little interest from developers, especially in the case of sites which are in areas of deprivation or close to interfaces.
Tim Attwood was intereviewed by the Irish News and called for an audit of the sites.  He also said that alternative and even temporary uses should be found and then added 'DSD needs to get the finger out and make this happen.'
Ever ready with a quote, the SDLP councillor, whom some of his critics unfairly describe as 'Dim Tim', failed to recognise that in criticising DSD he was also criticising his own brother, who was DSD minister from May 2010 to 2011, and his former party leader Margaret Ritchie MP, who was DSD minister from 2007 to 2010.
This is not a new issue and nearly all of the sites were in DSD ownership long before I came into the department in May last year.  Indeed one site was acquired more thaan 30 years ago.
So during that period from 2007 to 2011, when Margaret and Alex were in the department, did Tim tell them to 'get the finger out' and make things happen.  Somehow I don't think so.
In public life it is always a good idea to put the brain in gear before opening the mouth and Tim would do well to heed that advice.
Time and again I find SDLP politicians in the Assembly castigating DSD about some issue or other and time and again Iam able to  respond by saying that I inherited the problem from the SDLP.  You would think they would have learned by now but obviously not!
Of course what can you expect from a party with a leader like Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA?
Meanwhile, with 14 vacant sites on the Shankill Road alone, I have been working with officials to see these inner city communities regenerated.  That will require new approaches and new thinking but that is what I want to bring to the table.

Perhaps in future, just perhaps, Alex Attwood's younger brother will think before rushing into print.  Of course, as the leader of the SDLP group in the City Hall, Councillor Tim Attwood has had a lot on his mind in recent weeks.

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