Covid-19 has turned the world, and the priceless connections between people, upside down.
A councillor has raised concerns about on-street parking in the Grosvenor area.
Efforts are under way to identify the owner of an abandoned house in Turf Lodge, which has become a serious health and safety concern for residents.
Tá cuid de ghnéithe an tsaoil ar ais mar a bhí. Bíonn tranglam tráchta ar na bóithre ar maidin agus bíonn na busanna plódaithe le daltaí ar a mbealach ar scoil. Chím scoláirí Choláiste Mhaolmhaodhóg ar mo bhealach chun na hoibre agus smaoiním ar Noah Donohoe agus a mháthair, Fiona. Cuimhním nach mbeidh an saol choíche ar ais mar a bhí aicise. D’imigh Noah, a bhí 14 bliana d’aois, ar a rothar ón bhaile i ndeisceart Bhéal Feirste ar an 21 Meitheamh chun bualadh le cairde leis i bPáirc Thuaithe Bheann Mhadagáin i dtuaisceart na cathrach. Thángthas ar a chorp sé lá ina dhiaidh sin istigh i ndraein stoirme a ritheann faoin talamh ó Northwood síos go Bóthar na Trá agus Seaview.
The Assembly Health Committee last Thursday invited Prof Ben Cowling to tell them how the pandemic was being dealt with in Hong Kong. Their invite came amidst local reports of nurses parties, ambulance golf weekends and medical social worker pizza parties, which were thought to be contributing to coronavirus cases, with the upping of Donegal to match Dublin at Level 3.
THe widening of Covid restrictions announced on Monday of this week in response to the sharp uptake in infections across Ireland and Britain has, predictably, led to criticism.
‘CHOOSE your side! Choose your side!’ That was the cry of the rather scary collection of overweight, baldy, tattooed gentlemen who gathered in London at the weekend to oppose, ah, masks. In the war against Covid, most people here have already chosen their side and they’re on the same team as the virologists and epidemiologists who are telling us that we need to mask up in places where social distancing is not possible. Sadly, however, there’s a significant number of people – some of them doubtless reading this – who have decided that the brightest brains in the most prestigious educational, scientific and medical institutions in Ireland and Britain are not to be trusted. The people we need to trust, they believe, are Van Morrison, Denise Welch, Sammy Wilson and Jim Corr. Now Squinter didn’t have Van the Man down as a statue-guarder. Yes, we all know of his reputation as a cantankerous old curmudgeon – for some it has actually become an almost endearing quality. When he first started to give off about the lockdown affecting the music industry, Squinter put it down to the frustration of an artist unable to share his gifts with the world. But now that he’s written three songs railing against Covid restrictions, it’s pretty clear that he’s gone full Sammy on the virus. On his website he wrote: “I call on my fellow singers, musicians, writers, producers, promoters and others in the industry to fight with me on this. Come forward, stand up, fight the pseudoscience and speak up.”
I WILL vociferously defend the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts to the death, but I recognise there is one part of the compromise document we must question and review. Where there are issues of unresolved contest the GFA sets up Commissions. And as we saw in January’s bad joke book, New Decade New Approach, it seems to be a hard habit to break. Victims of institutional abuse? Give them a Commissioner. Veterans suffering PTSD? Give them a Commissioner. And so it goes on. Commissioners, Champions and Tsars. They come in such predictable guises of Good, Bad and Ugly that Ennio Moricone could have written a theme song for them. I know that some of the participants in 1998 had to sell the ideas of human rights and equality. And some of the participants were not keen. So these halfway houses were demonstrable commitments to rights. But have they worked? Or are they self-perpetuating and expensive monoliths getting in the way of authentic campaigners for rights?
A picture of the perfect day in the perfect place.
ON the good sponsorship of the Belfast Musical Society, a young talented black singer, Rachael Baptiste, came to Belfast in 1772 and stayed for one year, performing every week. It was a very busy season for it was the first time the Irish audience would have seen a black person singing in Belfast. Rachael entertained people at local halls, theatres and churches in Downpatrick, Carrickfergus, Lisburn and in many towns in England. She had her debut in Dublin and sung in many other parts of Ireland twenty-two years before staying in Belfast. Baptiste crooned at balls and theatrical concerts while her equally famous husband, John Crow, was giving violin lessons to budding musicians in Belfast and other towns. Baptist was born Ireland around 1750. Very little is known about her full life story but there are anecdotes of odd 18th century audience behaviour, for example jeering at a real black musician because they preferred, or were used to, a white singer with a deliberately blackened face – what they called minstrels. Historically, the ‘black minstrels’ were a very common feature in America and later in Ireland and other parts of Europe. Now, let us take a long jump forward to black music in Ireland today. Have you heard of the name Dana? Not the Irish mademoiselle, the Dana of 1970s Eurovision fame. This is a Dana who has a masters in her title. She is an American artist and granddaughter of a civil rights activist. Dana Masters moved to Northern Ireland in 2008 with her new love, Andrew, a man from Dromore, County Down. Dana, who is originally from South Carolina, has featured on TV programmes like the Nolan Show and in radio interviews, her music diary has revealed how much black music is sought after here. She is in love with jazz music and her voice says it all. She says that jazz was birthed by her ancestors and she must carry on with the beautiful tradition. When she makes her testimony on jazz, Dana reminds the viewer that it was not until she came to Northern Ireland that she started singing the genre. Dana has performed in the City of Derry Jazz & Big Band festival. Soul, funk and R&B are the other genres of music art that she loves and plays. On stage, she has sung regularly with Van Morrison. This and many other concerts have given her the much-needed publicity for her work in the music industry. There are many more black artists who are trying to find their focus as they constantly market their music in the face of other competing needs in their social and economic life. If you are artist it can be difficult to make a living, especially during this period of the Coronavirus. Others are unpaid musicians who perform in their churches solo or choirs that accompany evangelists who have also migrated to Ireland. Dana has demonstrated that what Rachael Baptiste achieved some two-hundred and fifty years ago here in Ireland and other venues is not impossible. She knows very well that her work in the music industry is not a flight of fancy. Elly Omondi Odhiambo is a Kenyan writer and care worker based in Belfast. He can be contacted by email.
For seven years now, the Belfast International Homecoming has built bridges to our global family to create a better Belfast.
WHAT has driven the British government to the point where it accuses the EU of plans to ‘starve’ the north of Ireland and ultimately cut that region off from the rest of the UK? The answer is straightforward: Britain aches for sovereignty, wants to make its own rules, govern itself, unhindered by Brussels. And so Boris Johnson and his cabinet colleagues use words like ‘take back control’ and ‘independent’, unhindered by the EU. In some ways it’s a reasonable demand. There is no doubt that when a state joins the EU, it has to accept EU rules. About? About all kinds of things. Most obviously, it has to buy into EU rules about food standards. It’s EU rules that have to date kept us free of the infamous chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef. So that by allowing Brussels to set the food rules, by definition we surrender control in these matters but, crucially, these rules are beneficial. There are other rules too – notably rules about free movement of labour. Inside the EU, you have to accept that other EU citizens can come to your country and work. On the other hand, you can go to any EU country and work. This was good news for states which had jobs but not enough people to do them, and bad news for those states which felt foreign workers were coming in and impoverishing the local people. Succinctly put, it was a choice between open labour borders (EU) or potentially closed labour borders (non-EU). The British Tories have managed to convince the English and Welsh people (but not the Scottish or Northern Irish) that closed or at least carefully filtered borders are best. How long you’re expected to work each week is also controlled by the EU: employers cannot make their workers work for more than 48 hours per week. With Britain outside the EU, that law could change. It could conceivably mean that the British law would say no more than 40 hours per week. But it also, and more likely, could say 50 or more hours per week. Either way, British workers will be at the mercy of Westminster legislation.
PADDY O’Kane was the first Catholic to buy a house on Hightown Road, Glengormley. Originally from Ballinderry on the Tyrone/Derry border, his family had moved to the Antrim Road Belfast some years earlier and when Paddy married he took a liking to Glengormley village, settling there in 1962. Paddy often told me how small the community was then. There was just one Mass in St Mary’s on the Hill with an attendance of about thirty. The M2 motorway was under construction and there were no houses other than a few farmhouses beyond the M2 bridge on Hightown Road. “The only people who passed up by our door were courting couples,” he recalled. “It was known as the road to nowhere.” While some locals ignored him, others originally greeted Paddy as Mr Kane but he quickly reminded them that there was an O in his name. Paddy watched Glengormley grow and become more and more integrated.With the rise in numbers in the Glengormley district new schools were needed with the great influx of young families. A new Catholic parish was created in Glengormley with Father Shaun McClafferty as first PP. No man was better suited to the task. He identified and purchased land for future development. A run-down large property known as Elmfield House on Antrim Road became parish headquarters with a Nissen hut serving as an oratory and the construction of a new primary school quickly set in motion. This development acted as a magnet for incoming Catholic families and Elmfield estate house prices began to rise. The onset of civil unrest might have bypassed Glengormley. Given that the vast majority of the homes were being purchased with 25-year mortgages the district might well have remained unscathed. However, events in Rathcoole and other large housing estates had their effect. In the 1970s the Catholic population of Rathcoole came under pressure. Eventually the whole Catholic population, estimated as a third of the total, was either physically evicted or intimidated into moving. It was the biggest movement of population in Europe since World War 2. Many of the families moved to West Belfast to new estates such as Twinbrook. Others were more fortunate in having savings and a good number of them bought houses in Glengormley, many in Elmfield, and as you can guess they were determined never to be intimidated again. Some of the families evicted from Rathcoole refused to move to “the outskirts of Lisburn” as one man put it to me. They feared that the same thing might happen again. One man I knew split his large family up with children staying with different relatives while he pressured the Housing Executive for accommodation nearby. He ran into every possible obstacle. The RUC had no record of any attacks on his Rathcoole home though he had contacted them twelve times. Eventually a former neighbour gave evidence that he had sat in their house for three nights armed with a shotgun after windows had been broken. The response of the RUC was to attempt to take away Paddy’s gun licence. They failed. Eventually the Housing Executive bought a house in Elmfield and let it to the homeless family. I became aware of this scheme one day when I went to the shop in Elmfield to buy a newspaper. As I was walking along a voice rang out: “Hi, stranger, are you not talking to anyone?” It was the voice of a man I had been speaking to in the Bellevue Arms a few nights previously. We stood chatting at his garden gate, joined by his wife, when a clergyman came out from the house next door. He must have assumed that I was either of his or a similar persuasion for he began explaining his mission to all three of us. “You two are buying your own home here,” he said, ”and it gives us independence and security. People own their own houses and have to look after them. You have to pay your rates so you have to budget. People who come here have to sink or swim. If they can't afford to live here they move out. The Housing Executive have told me they can't build any houses in Glengormley for they have no land but they're buying houses here in Elmfield and letting them out. Some people here are struggling to pay their mortgages and then find” (at this stage he waved his arms and pointed to a house opposite) “that they are living next door to someone who is paying a small rent. You'll be glad to know I have got them to stop.” And with that he moved on to knock the door of the next house. The couple were embarrassed with Mrs Thompson saying: “Is it any wonder I don't go to listen to him on Sundays? He does go on a bit.” I discovered later that the Housing Executive had bought a number of houses in Elmfield to house families evicted from Rathcoole and had stopped the practice, not because of protest by people like that clergyman, but because prices had risen sharply. I later discovered that the house identified by the clergyman had been allocated to a good friend of mine. Had it not been for the clergyman’s intervention no neighbour would have been aware that the house was rented. That family would have been seen as the best neighbours anyone could have and when the youngest daughter of the house took up a career in a bank she bought the house! Since the boom around 1980, Glengormley has changed. Most of the shops mentioned in the first article are gone. The building of a Tesco superstore at Northcott and the development of the Abbey Centre have meant that the demand for commercial premises in Glengormley is practically non-existent. The recent development of Eurostar on the Antrim Road has killed off any of the smaller shops still open. The most common sign in Glengormley now is TO LET or FOR SALE. Fast food takeaways vie with estate agents for prominence. Car parking is no longer a problem. Many comments have been made about how town centres have been silenced by Covid-19. Glengormley didn't have to wait for the pandemic. Despite having the worst credentials for being included in the motto for Newtownabbey, ‘Seven shall rise as one’, Glengormley has become more recognisable than any of the other six. The notion of Newtownabbey as being a recognisable town has long ceased to exist. The new council, Antrim and Newtownabbey, is very much an administrative entity. Historically the district has had its share of community tensions but with greater integration it is hoped that we can improve with time. The absence of the Orange arch in the centre of Glengormley this year because of Covid-19 was welcomed by a great number of people. This was the first year we haven't had the contentious ‘Opening of the Arch’ parade. On July 12th the local Orange band from Queen’s Park made their way to the War Memorial in Lilian Bland Park before visiting localities where they were welcomed. No-one was offended. They laid a blueprint for the future. Steps should now be taken to make sure the arch never reappears in the centre of Glengormley and that the main thoroughfare can be free of flags.Glengormley has become a secure residential entity. Many who live there work in Belfast and transport services are adequate. There are a number of housing developments ongoing. Gone are the days of the standard semi-detached villa. Bigger housing units are being developed and many of the children of those who migrated here in the 60s, 70s and 80s are happy to settle here. Paddy O’Kane’s ‘Road to nowhere’ – the Hightown Road – now boasts several housing estates of varying size and design contrasting with the monopoly of semi-detached villas elsewhere and is a model of social integration. The presence of a cinema and bowling alley, the nearby leisure centre, golf, rugby, soccer and GAA facilities all help to make Glengormley a good place to live – and we are only 15 minutes away from the centre of Belfast. We even get snow when few other places have it.
THE West Belfast community is being asked to rally around the family of 31-year-old Paul Dornan who continues his fight against leukaemia.
We look back at the stories that were making the headlines in the Andersonstown News this week in 1981