Recently I announced six pilots for a programme entitled Building Successful Communities. Three of the pilot areas in West Belfast (1) Lower Falls (2) Andersonstown and (3) Lower Shankill and Brown Square. Two of the pilot areas are in North Belfast ((4) Lower Oldpark and (5) Duncairn and Mountcollyer. The sixth pilot area is the Doury Road estate in Ballymena.
I was therefore surprised to read a letter in the Irish News (5 November 2013) from Pat Benson, chairman of the Sailortown Regeneration Group. He started his letter by saying:
With reference to building communities Nelson McCausland has been very selective in the areas chosen for the pilot schemes. We note the areas are all in non-Catholic districts ...
I had to read that several times to convince myself that I had not misread it but Pat Benson did actually write that 'the areas are all in non-Catholic districts'.
Yet two of the pilot areas that were selected are in Lower Falls and Andersonstown and unless there have been some incredible demographic shifts in the last few days they are most certainly 'Catholic districts'. In fact they are almost 'entirely Catholic districts'.
How can we have a sensible discussion about housing in Belfast when a prominent housing activist such as Pat Benson makes such a bizarre claim? What on earth led him to make that claim? Does he really believe it and is that what the other members of the Sailortown Regeneration Group believe? Or did the Irish News print something that he didn't write?