Seventeen years after the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday Agreement) was signed. Local families continue to suffer from high deprivation, low educational achievement, little employment opportunities, hostile political policing and of course second-class citizenship. A number of local schools have closed down and no sign of them reopening.
|St. Gemma's School|
Over the past year, a number of 'Community Groups', (many of which exist in name only) have been attempting to take ownership of St. Gemma's. They believe the site should be used as a 'Community Hub'. Where they and other groups should be housed in the future. Many within these areas view this with suspicion because there has been no consultation between these groups, the Catholic Church and residents. There seems to be no transparency about meetings, discussions and feedback. Likewise, it sadly indicates what is missing from the wider community sector in Ardoyne and the Bone.
In early November, the Nora Connolly Cumann of RNU issued a public statement concerning St. Gemma's and called for the local community to be consulted about it's future use. Community Must Be Consultated on the Furure of St. Gemma's - RNU
Last month, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) changed it's Constitution to allow it to include all issues of concern to the local community. Since then, GARC has commissioned an independent survey seeking residents views, as to what they would like to see the St. Gemma's Site used for. At present, the information is being collated by statisticians and will be published in the New Year.
For the past six years, GARC has effectively represented the Greater Ardoyne community against unwelcome sectarian marches. There is little doubt that they will also be successful in better representing ordinary people living here, than some of the groups who claim to be working on our behalf! The survey is a timely, progressive and positive move by GARC.
After spending over six years with GARC and holding a number of roles on it's radical Committee. As anyone who knows me realises, I also have a number of other commitments in my life. That include a senior position in RNU and of course my family. As a result, I felt the need to leave the Collective's Steering Committee. Although, they will continue to have my full support. Finally, I'd like to wish all my readers the very best for Christmas and Good Luck in the new year.