|Cuchulainn House, North Belfast|
Stories about housing feature regularly in the North Belfast News and last week (22 March 2014) was no exception. The paper reported that work is about to start on retrofitting Cuchulainn House in the New Lodge area of North Belfast and the report, written by journalist Evan Short, contained two very specific claims.
(1) The headline stated 'Local delight as Seven Towers get £7 million for flats upgrade' and this was repeated in the first paragraph - 'THE SEVEN TOWERS in the New Lodge area are each to be get a million pound makeover.'
(2) Liam Wiggins from the New Lodge Housing Forum said, 'New triple glazing windows will be put in.' Indeed this claim was seen as so important that it was also pulled out of the text of the article and reprinted in larger text near the tope of the page.
Now both claims struck me as somewhat strange and so I checked with the Housing Executive. Yes work is about to start on Cuchulainn House, one of the seven tower blocks, but the contract is for one block only, not seven. It seemed from the North Belfast News article that work was starting on all seven New Lodge tower blocks and that that all seven were being given preference over tower blocks elsewhere in North Belfast, such as those in Mount Vernon and Rathcoole, as well as tower blocks in other parts of Northern Ireland.
I have been assured that is not the case and that while the first tower block to be retrofitted is Cuchulainn House, the Housing Executive is considering all the tower blocks in its stock and will develop a programme to address the deficiencies. It is not a case of £7 million allocated for the New Lodge and other tower blocks having to wait until that work is completed. £1 million has been allocated for one tower block and in the meantime the Housing Executive will develop an on-going programme of work for ALL of the tower blocks in Belfast and beyond.
The second claim related to 'triple glazing' but in fact I was told that the flats will receive 'double glazing', which is the standard for other properties.
So it is a case of £1 million, not £7 million, and double glazing not triple glazing.
But the North Belfast News and Liam Wiggins can turn £1 million into £7 million and double glazing into triple glazing.
The Housing Executive news release also refers to double glazing, not triple glazing.
The newspaper calls itself the North Belfast News but as a nationalist newspaper it seems to be only interested in nationalist North Belfast. It also seems to specialise in fiction rather than fact. The North Belfast News has been consistently wrong in relation to relative housing need in the North Belfast constituency and it can't even get it right when it comes to a simple story about a particular scheme.