Guest writer Gerard O’Halloran with a piece expressing his grave concerns about the proposed construction of a new GAA pitch in West Belfast.
The Davitts Club is facing the Dunville Park on the Falls Road. Dunville Park has been upgraded to include a new 3G pitch. This new pitch in the park is right outside the Davitts front door. If you use Google street view you will be able to verify this.
Secondly, I don't think this teaming up of government and council money for a GAA/drinking club venture has been tried before, and lastly it looks like it’s already a done deal ... the leaflet states that ‘150k has already been committed to the project from Belfast City Council.’
This isn't the super pitch already being proposed for Casement Park in Andersonstown, but another one. It would be wrong for your readers from outside Belfast to confuse the two. But the super one (county pitch) as far as I know is being funded from their own pockets and I don't think any tax payers money is involved.
I need to tell you my motivation, in order to be upfront. I have a 32 year old with severe learning problems, and she has attended Mica Drive day centre for twenty years. The leaflet says this centre will benefit. I can't see how. There’s also an old people’s home in that development, and the council has already pulled down a perfectly good leisure centre from that ground, due to lack of money. Yet tax payers’ money can be given to the Davitts to fund their own project. I find this incredible. The day centre had to beg and borrow to get a sign from the council to keep dogs out. Locals were bringing their dogs on to the only piece of grass in Beechmount to defecate. The sign was eventually pulled down. Disabled buses are being pulled, yet tax payers money can go to the Davitts drinking club. Amazing ... so I've been up front with you for my reasons.
I'm not sure the promise contained in the leaflet that this pitch will prevent antisocial behaviour will stand up. What if the yearly bonfires are simply lit on the new walk way instead of the waste ground? Since when do antisocial elements respect anything? This pitch could in fact make things worse. The old people’s home, Our Lady’s Home, that's been there since I can ever remember - and I was born and reared in the area - will have to deal with flood lights from this pitch, seven nights a week. Have they, or the day centre been consulted at all. Not to my knowledge.
In principle, I'm not against this pitch. The Davitts are a good club, with no bother out of them. But there are ample pitches in the area, just not one belonging to the club and I fail to see why such huge amounts of public money can be given, and promised when everybody else is facing cuts to front line services? Why can't the Davitts fund their own pitch, and use the other public money for public services?
Could I also state with great respect to your readers, I have no political stake in this. My reasons for my concern are as I laid out above.