“Consult with people first”, says Crossan

The announcement that the ‘Phone First’ system for contacting a GP is to be made permanent has been heavily criticised by Workers Party West Belfast candidate Patrick Crossan

“I am appalled”, he said “that the Royal College of GPs has taken this decision without either reference to, or seeking the opinions of, the thousands of local GP patients that will be affected by it”

“Our health services are under extreme pressure through lack of investment and there is also significant pressure on our GP services. We all know that from our personal experience, particularly over the last two years”, Patrick said.

“GP services are central to our health and care system; they are at the heart of the community. This is no way to manage that service and shows a serious disregard for the thousands of people who regularly rely on their GP surgery”, Patrick claimed.

“I am calling for an immediate reversal of this dangerous decision and for a period of public consultation – in which everyone’s views can be taken into account – on how best local GP services can be delivered”, he said

“Part of that discussion has to be about ending the private contractor status of GPs and making them NHS employees”, Patrick added

Public Housing the Priority on former Mackies site

Workers Party West Belfast representative, Conor Duffy has reacted angrily to the announcement that no public housing is to be built on the former Mackies site on the Springfield Road.

“Well over a year ago I warned that despite West Belfast having one of the highest public housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council was proposing to develop the 25-acre site as a park and green-way amenity area”, Conor said

Those fears were confirmed at a meeting of the Council earlier this week.

While I am symapthetic to the need for such ammenities, the priority remains that there is currently a need for more than 2,000 publicly owned, affordable homes in West Belfast.

The waiting list figures here are amongst the highest in Northern Ireland, yet the council has opted to use the land for what amounts to an environmentally friendly ‘peace wall’ rather than an integrated public housing development stretching between the Springfield and Ballygomartin areas.

“It is inconceivable that the former Mackies site, which is public land under the ownership of the Department for Communities, is not being earmarked for a major public housing project

Sinn Fein, in particular, owe this community a public explanation of their position, why they voted against a proposal for public housing and why their Minister in the Department of the Communities did not support a public housing development on the site” Conor concluded..

Homes – not another ‘peace wall in disguise’

The priority must be integrated public housing

A call for the building of public housing on the former Mackies site on Belfast’s Springfield Road has been made amidst fears that the area could be used to develop ‘yet another peace wall in disguise’

The comments come from Workers Party representative Conor Duffy who says that “despite West Belfast having one of the highest public housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council is proposing to develop the 25 acre site as a park and green-way amenity area..

” There is currently a need for more than 2,000 publicly owned, affordable homes in West Belfast. The waiting list figures here are amongst the highest in Northern Ireland”, Conor said.

Sectarian balance

“It is unbelievable that Belfast City Council is turning its back on the opportunity to use 25 acres of publicly owned land to build desperately needed public housing, unless of course their concerns are not about providing homes, but are about maintaining a sectarian balance”, he said .

“We have seen this before in other parts of Belfast – the site of the old Girwood Barracks in North Belfast, for example. Instead of using that land to addresses the chronic shortage of public housing in that area it too was turned into a ‘shared community space’ – which in reality represents yet another dividing line in the community.

“That option means that new public housing isn’t built where and when it should be, so that the local electoral balance remains unchanged”, Conor pointed out

“There is a very real danger that that is what we are about to see happen at the former Mackies site”, Conor added

Integrated public housing

“Here we have perfect opportunity to build an integrated public housing development stretching between the Springfield and Ballygomartin areas in line with the Housing Executive’s ‘Building Good Relations Through Housing Strategy (2017).

 l have written to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and asked her to intervene directly before we have a bigger housing crisis and another yet another peace wall in disguise”, Conor concluded.