Glassmullin Green – A Playground for Thugs?

Several weeks ago I was met with the news that the development of an artificial pitch on Glassmullin green has been given the green light despite the wishes of the overwhelming majority of residents surrounding the open green space. Several days before Belfast City Council gave the go ahead dozens of residents and children held a short protest on the green to highlight that local people wanted the space to maintain in community ownership.

As news that the development was given the all clear the Baby Shinners went straight on the attack on social media, gloating that it was going ahead and verbally attacking those residents and supporters who stood by the wishes of local people. The local community have clearly been hurt by this decision but yet the Baby Shinners gloat, laugh and insult local residents. For an electoralist organisation that is some electoral strategy! Local SF councillors have been nowhere to be seen and they are elected to represent the views of local people, is this democracy? We all know that these reps don’t represent local interest but party interest, but we can sympathise as it is tow the party line or get the cut. We wouldn’t want to see any of them out of a job now!

The use of buzz words such as ‘investment’ were thrown about, investment is ensuring that local people get the most from local resources not taken away and locked out of them. Investment in this sense is a private enterprise for La Salle who will profit from taking away a local community resource and charge entrance for its own personal gain. It is a sensitive issue as we do want to see local schools develop but not at the expense of the residents who live in the area 24/7 and when there is alternative pitches less than five minutes away.

Some of the Baby Shinners had branded the green as a ‘playground for thugs’ after a stolen car was driven on to the pitch. Anti-social behaviour should never be tolerated and local residents don’t want stolen cars on their open green either. I spoke to a local resident who reported the car and said it was removed within the hour. Is the solution to tackling anti-social behaviour building an artificial pitch? Absolutely not. If Glassmullin is such a ‘hot spot’ for anti-social behaviour then a closed pitch is not the solution, this will merely move anti-social elements on to other peoples doorsteps. 

My experience in community development and from looking at the approved plans I believe that the development will actually fuel anti-social activity. The blind spots behind wired fences, the lanes with sheltered trees and shrubbery are ideal spots for crowds of youths to gather in large numbers and drink. We have created a space that the youths who gather in their hundreds in Finaghy Road North and Woodlands have been crying out for. We will be creating a space that will provide a gathering spot for hundreds of street drinkers as seen in Woodside last summer and the Waterworks in North Belfast.

Is the solution to anti-social behaviour the development of a 3G pitch? Will this tackle the underlying issues that result in anti-social behaviour such as poverty, lack of community ownership, low self esteem, community isolation and exclusion? Actually the development of this pitch will not tackle poverty, it will take away more ownership of local resource from the local community leaving more people feeling isolated and excluded. The end result will be that the green will turn in to a hot spot for anti-social elements and a playground for thugs and create an even bigger issue for local residents.

The solution is community empowerment and community ownership. Allow local residents to decide how the space should be used and dictate its own future. When we have ownership of something and have an input into its development we take pride in it and look after it. When people take that away from us we seek to be destructive.