There is a growing perception within the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community that their needs, views, desires, and aspirations don’t count to those with the power and control to influence the outcomes.

Brexit:

The nation voted as a body on Brexit and yet when it was implemented Northern Ireland was carved out of the nation. For the first in a long time the four unionist political parties, after facilitation from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, came together and spoke from the one hymn sheet. The message was clear that a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom would never be acceptable. This message was clearly explained to the EU and the Government of the Republic of Ireland. The response from the EU still included the border controls at the docks of Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint. You ask; we vote; we speak; EU ignore.

Housing:

The community needs affordable homes of a quality and design to meet the needs of the community. Rathcoole has a waiting list of over 800 families and yet the Housing Executive after community engagement and elected members representations have continued to proceed with the removal of the multis. Monkscoole house has been allowed to rot. The process has been commenced to pull it down. Why was this block of flats selected to be first? The Housing Executive’s own assessments had the Rathcoole flats in middle table compared to the rest of the multi-story housing stock held by the Housing Executive. Why when the Housing Executive is on the verge of being able to build new stock and hopefully with this funding reprofile and upgrade these needed buildings to provide housing stock in an area of need. You ask; residents speak; HE ignores.

Also, in Rathcoole we see Housing associations planning to build homes which do not meet the needs of the community. The community and the local elected reps engaged and requested a reduction in the amount of green space in the development and an increase in the number of homes at affordable rents. The response from the Housing Association was to proceed with their plans.

Is the view asked for and given by the community only to allow boxes to be ticked on planning applications? You ask; we speak; we make submissions; HA ignore.

Cultural Identity:

The PUL community have seen the Parades Commission make decisions and determinations on their parades and compared these to those from the Catholic Nationalist Republican (CNR) community. There is no comparison to the determinations while breach after breach occurs at CNR parades with no consequences more and more restrictions are placed on PUL parades. The decision to prevent the members of the Orange Lodges in North Belfast to walk by their own front door in a majority unionist area is beyond belief. Watching members of the lodges leave their homes, walk down the street through the line of police land rovers, to return on parade to be stopped and then to await the land rovers to leave so that they could walk back up the estate to their homes. You ask; local elected representatives speak and make submissions; PC ignore.

The PUL community see play parks being named after those involved in mass murder and yet on the centenary of our country Stormont cannot allow a stone to be laid in the grounds of Stormont to make this celebration. You ask for ideas to mark the centenary; elected representatives speak and make submissions; SF ignore.

Educational achievement and employment opportunities:

How many reports and studies have been done on the underachievement of the young males from a PUL background. Instead of investing in another report it might be better to work with the community and invest in these young men to allow them to achieve their aspirations. You ask; we speak; you write reports; EA ignore.

As a community we encourage people to register to vote to ensure their voice is heard by political representation. As a community we encourage our community to engage with statutory bodies to ensure that they know the needs, desires, and aspirations of the community.

Has it come to the point where those having the power and control to address the needs of the PUL community are treating this community as second class, as not mattering, as not valuable?

As a community we need to ensure our community is listened to, we need those in power to address our needs and provide fair opportunities. It is not special treatment the PUL community wants, but to be treated equally and to be no longer ignored. This community is starting to find its voice and will be ensuring that those in power and control will be hearing our voice and ignoring us no longer.

Let’s Talk, Let’s Be Heard.

By Brian Kerr

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