31 July 2008 Edition

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Short Strand wants 'homes not forts'

MILITARISED BLIGHT: Short Strand residents are demanding the removal of the Mountpottinger barracks

MILITARISED BLIGHT: Short Strand residents are demanding the removal of the Mountpottinger barracks

‘HOMES not forts’ is the demand being spearheaded by Sinn Féin in East Belfast’s Short Strand area. Party members have launched a drive to collect signatures from local people supporting the party’s call for the dismantling of Mountpottinger barracks a symbol of division and conflict for many years in this nationalist area.
Sinn Féin’s East Belfast representative Niall Ó Donnghaile, commenting on the initiative said this week that members of the Martin/Treacy Cumann, Sinn Féin have been out and around the area on Saturday night and Monday night collecting signatures for a petition calling on Mountpottinger Barracks to go.
“The petition will be submitted to the ongoing consultation into the future of the base. So far the reception at the doors has been fantastic, people clearly support the notion that Mountpottinger’s time is over, and that it must go and make way for something substantive and worthwhile to the local area”, Ó Donnghaile said.
Cumann members will be out again this week in an endeavour to make sure that every door in the Short Strand is knocked and that people have an opportunity to get their say.

DUP motives
Last week, Niall Ó Donnghaile questioned the motivation behind a call the DUP’s East Belfast MLA Robin Newton for the retention of Mountpottinger Barracks.
“Obviously the DUP in East Belfast have always had a desire to militarise the Short Strand area, after all they were the party who called for a ‘ring of steel’ to be put around the district. In the current climate within a new political dispensation, the DUP need to clearly outline the practical reasons why they want Mountpottinger Barracks retained”, Ó Donnghaile said.
He went on: “Mountpottinger is a relic of the past. It is a symbol of all that was wrong with policing here in the North. On top of that, in practical terms the base is over a century old, it is used on a part time basis as it is, and Strandtown Station on the Hollywood road is a short distance away as is Musgrave St Station.
“No one disputes the need for effective community based policing; I deal with people everyday who suffer as a result of anti-social behaviour and I continue to raise the very real concerns around drugs in East Belfast. These are issues we all need to tackle, the PSNI included. What Sinn Féin and the community in the Short Strand want to see is the PSNI, like the rest of us, moving on into a new climate where these issues can be dealt with practically and I believe that we can do this. The retention of a huge militarised blight on our area does nothing to aid this endeavour.
“Therefore I must ask again, what exactly are the practical reasons the DUP believe justify the retention of Mountpottinger Barracks? Are they truly concerned about crime in East Belfast or is it a case that they want to maintain the ‘ring of steel’ they once called for in the past?

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