Equity Diversity Interdependence
Promoting a Peaceful and Fair
Society based on Reconciliation
and Mutual Trust.
For most funding purposes North Belfast geographically now includes Whitecity, Whitewell, Longlands, Bawnmore and Rathcoole
North Belfast is the most fragmented part of the city. The greater levels of segregation have led to an increase in the number of boundaries between single identity areas and an increase in the number of potentially contentious interfaces
These include 15 physical barriers constructed of brick walls or steel fences.
Territory is also marked out by:
The PSNI now have twenty-one Closed Circuit Television cameras (CCTV) operational across North Belfast. The main five being:
1. Ardoyne Road / Alliance Avenue
2. Crumlin Road / Twaddell Avenue / Ardoyne Shop Fronts
3. Limestone Road / Hallidays Road
4. North Queen Street / Duncairn Gardens
5. Whitewell Road / Gunnell Hill
Duplication of services
Because of fear, people are not prepared to travel through some areas and find it difficult to access shops, jobs, post offices, health centres, leisure facilities and schools.
The general situation tends to be overcrowding in Catholic/Nationalist areas and vacant spaces in some Protestant/Unionist areas.
Population Change and housing/territory
A young and growing Catholic population
An ageing and declining Protestant population
Housing conditions in the Protestant working class areas of North Belfast tend to be substantially worse than those in Catholic areas. Protestants often see themselves being 'squeezed out' of many of the areas they live in and community infrastructure is generally weaker in Protestant areas. Added to this is the recent vicious ongoing loyalist feud.
Working class Catholic communities often feel that their need for housing is not being taken seriously and that they are trapped behind 'walls of fear' even though there may be available space within Protestant areas.
Experiences of people living and working in North Belfast and Police figures, indicate that the issue of sectarian interface violence remains a considerable, serious and recurrent problem across the area.
There tends to be a lack of understanding and consequential mistrust of 'the other side'.
Segregated living has become part of North Belfast's fabric with many residents now feeling that they need to live among those who share their identity and outlook for safety reasons. This is particularly relevant in interface areas where the problem of sectarianism is seen in its most destructive form.
Innovative approaches to breaking down divisions in the area are required.
Social and Economic issues
Parts of North Belfast are prosperous while others suffer from multiple disadvantage, with even the relatively affluent wards containing pockets of major deprivation.
The area has the capacity to:
The division and polarisation which exists, discourages major inward investment.
There is a need to overcome division and restructure the local economy to provide lasting job opportunities together with the basic skills necessary to access employment.
Overall educational standards in the area are low.
North Belfast has some of the poorest health and social care indices in Northern Ireland, with high incidences of:
Problems associated with substance abuse and mental health are prevalent throughout the area as well as suicides among young people.
Exacerbated by the fact that, in the last 30 years, North Belfast has experienced the highest levels of 'troubles' related deaths and injuries of any area in Northern Ireland
North Belfast continues to host bitter inter and intra community conflict.
Funding community action
Although North Belfast has had a number of quite substantial funding programmes in place over the years the Dunlop Report highlighted an urgent need for community capacity building, leading to empowerment. It recommended the development a long-term programme designed to meet local needs and which is flexible enough to cope with the various levels of development that exist between communities
This would appear to be particularly needed in Unionist/Loyalist communities and should be developed in tandem with Community Relations programmes with targeted and sustainable funding supported by an interagency approach.
Resources and facilities for young people are generally viewed as being inadequate and "boredom", "despair" and "hopelessness" expressed by young people. The problem of 'recreational rioting' often happens at interface areas.
Young people need to be convinced that they have a future in the area and need positive influences and role models to inspire and motivate them to move from anti-social behavior and develop self-esteem
Members of the local Assembly belong to four different political parties DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP and UU.
Belfast City Council electoral area
2 DUP, 1 PUP, 1 UUP, 1 Ind*
2 DUP, 2 SDLP, 1 SF, 1 UUP
3 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 DUP, 1 PUP
Responses to the Shared Future consultation on Improving Relations in Northern Ireland indicated that people regarded dialogue between the communities and political leaders as vital for the future stability of Northern Ireland.
It called for creative political leadership with a shared vision for problem solving and peace building as a matter of urgency and that without decisive positive influence by the politicians on all sides in North Belfast attitudinal changes will be very difficult to achieve.
UVF and UDA / UFF are the main loyalist groupings.
The Provisional IRA are the dominant Republican grouping, closely followed by the INLA and dissident republicans.
There is a view that some paramilitary groups try to exercise constructive leadership and have worked to improve their communities whilst others exercise a malign influence and are barriers to progress in terms of cross community work and often within their own single identity community and often connected up with racketeering and drug dealing
Paramilitary attacks have increased since the ceasefires. The use of guns in these incidents has declined but the use of baseball bats etc. has increased and more attacks are carried out within the loyalist community.
There has been increased attacks on churches, graveyards, orange halls, homes and business premises
The Loyalist feud has had a major negative impact on North Belfast through loss of life, home and business.
The thirty plus years of conflict included the police and has led to:
There appears to be little understanding between the two and it is a particularly hard task to make inroads on the issue of acceptable policing.
This has left 'hard to police areas' with residents who feel they have no protection inside the law.
There is no clear strategic or shared vision for North Belfast that is acceptable to all. Therefore no 'big picture' to which individual communities can be directed for hope and inspiration.
It is a fact that no single organisation working on its own can deliver sustainable improvement. There is a need to work at different levels but within a multi agency approach involving political representatives, statutory bodies, voluntary bodies and business sector and which should have a strong community/voluntary sector voice.
This approach for delivery needs to be coupled with the development of a long-term integrated strategy for community development and community relations in the area
Even though a bleak picture of North Belfast has been painted there has been a wealth of good work done by a variety of different agencies, not least the voluntary/community sector. This work must be acknowledge, promoted, supported and replicated throughout North Belfast.
CRC is playing its role in North Belfast and working in partnership with a number of key players.