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Shared space projects ‘aid demise of PLU’

By David Whelan

Loyalists in Tigers Bay seeking to de-rail a project for shared space in North Belfast have claimed that such cross-community projects harm the Protestant community.

Members of the North Belfast, Westland and Shankill UPRG attended a public meeting for Tigers Bay residents on the future of McCrory community hall last Friday and voiced their anger at the project.

Chair of the management committee and representative of Fortwilliam and Macrory Church, Richard Higginson, said that there was a worry that other people had been afraid to attend the meeting. Despite a total of 500 leaflets being posted in the Tigers Bay area informing residents about the open consultation, only around 20 people, all of whom were in opposition, attended.

It comes after a similar incident in May when around 30 people involved in a white picket loyalist protest outside the hall also entered a meeting on the project’s future.

Following last week’s meeting a statement on the North Belfast UPRG social media account – an account linked to the radical splinter group from the main UDA – said that the project represented the “demise of the Protestant, unionist and loyalist community in the area”.

It also accused those involved in the new project of “following blindly shared future doctrine and supporting artificial relationships for funding”.

“We reflect that within the area the decision makers who design the policy are often from an Irish Nationalist background with an eye on the interests of their political and cultural agenda exclusively,” it read.

Influential loyalist community workers had originally backed the plan but a feud between factions of the UDA has led to the emergence of a more radical opposition.

Speaking to the North Belfast News, Richard Higginson said that the group were focused on hearing the thoughts of the whole community despite the setback.

“I think we have discovered that for whatever reason the open drop in consultation has been monopolized by the nay-sayers from Tigers Bay and UPRG from Westland and Shankill,” he said.

“We are going to be doing our best to make accessible opportunities for other groups within Tigers Bay to share their views and will be taking advantage of the community events leading up to Christmas to try and do that.

“We are committed to engaging a process of dialogue with the nay-sayers.

“Obviously some of the issues are wrapped up politically with a felling that there is a republican agenda here, monopolizing the shared space ventures and coupled with the general community safety concern.

“There is obviously a deep mistrust there because of the legacy of the past and I suppose our hope is that even though there are nay-sayers, at the moment, they are engaging with us and we will be seeking follow up conversations and a possible independent survey within Tigers Bay, to try and get more of a comprehensive reflection on what the residents feel.”

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