SINN Féin activist Joe Duffy has been selected to replace Danny Baker on Belfast City Council following his recent election as MLA for West Belfast.
The Colin resident had previously contested the 2019 election within the Lisburn North DEA in Lisburn City and Castlereagh Council, and sitting down with the Andersonstown News, he explained how he plans to build upon Danny’s legacy.
“I first moved to Mount Eagles in 2006. My key priority is to continue with the great work that Danny has done," he said.
"He led the foundations there and my commitment to the people of the Colin area, but specifically the Lagmore and Mount Eagles area that I will be representing, is to continue with the same vigour and determination that Danny has done but in my own way and bring my own stamp to that.
"For me, it is about making Colin a lot more greener, cleaner and more prosperous, safer area for us all.
“We have seen what Danny has achieved with the new crossing at McKinstry Road, we just got word from DFI this week about a new crossing at Our Lady Queen of Peace and it is just about continuing to work hard, continuing to lobby the departments so that we continue to see this investment coming into the area because we have lacked that for a long, long time.”
Joe said that one of his main priorities will be getting access to more green space for residents.
“We don’t have many open, green spaces. During the pandemic we had to get in our cars and drive to safer places. I’m working on the West Belfast Greenway, similar to the Comber and Connswater Greenway. We are at the feasibility stage now with the Department for Infrastructure and we would like to see a West Belfast Greenway incorporated.
“Another key priority for me is to see the Colin Active Strategy pushed through where we will have dedicated cycle paths throughout the Colin area so that it is safer to cycle through the area and so we can link in with other initiatives across the city such as the Forth Meadow Greenway.”
When it comes to capital infrastructure, Joe added that he is committed to continuing to work with the likes of the Lagmore Youth Project to see a purpose-built youth centre for the Lagmore area.
Joe also said that he is committed to the delivery of a new medical centre at Colin Town Square and a new school building for St Colm’s High School alongside more affordable and social housing.
“I have also been the chair of the Lagmore, Mount Eagles Community and Youth Association for the last six years. We have brought a lot of investment and events into the area and I want to continue on that basis, be that over St Patrick’s Day, Halloween or Christmas to make our community a lot more inclusive and bring the feel good factor back to the area as we continue to emerge from Covid.”
Joe has also worked with the West Belfast Partnership Board as their Strategic Development Co-ordinator and he said that he views this council role as being complementary to that work. During the pandemic he also set up the Colin Community Response which distributed much-needed food parcels to the most vulnerable in the community.
Looking ahead to next year’s Council election and coming on the back of the latest Assembly poll, Joe is acutely aware of the challenges he will face in the current political climate.
“We are looking to get the Executive back up and running, although that is out of our control on Belfast City Council, it does have a ripple effect on our communities.
“I do believe that the democratic outcome of the recent election needs to be respected,” he added.
“People want to see their politicians, whether that is in Belfast City Council or the Executive to be working for the people.”