07 April 2006

Commissioner to seek urgent meeting with HE chief executive


The Human Rights Commissioner was so shocked by the real life experiences of mothers and children living in the New Lodge tower blocks that she is seeking an urgent meeting with Paddy McIntyre, the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive.
Monica McWilliams was invited to the area for the first time in her new role as human rights boss by Sinn Féin councillor Carál Ní Chuilín.
During her visit to the New Lodge Housing Forum and the tower blocks the human rights boss said she discovered some ‘very disturbing’ health and housing issues.
“The whole experience was very disturbing. There are real legitimate concerns here about families with young children being exposed to raw sewage in the flats in their bath water, infestation of insects, lack of play facilities which is associated in high rise accommodation, and a lack of short, medium or long-time plans by the Housing Executive,” she said.
“I listened attentively and I have agreed to take their concerns back and address this in whatever way I can. Clearly there needs to be a start by public statutory agencies in addressing this. I will be seeking a meeting with Paddy McIntrye to discuss this further.”
Housing campaigners say the Executive’s strategy to tackle alarmingly high levels of housing distress in nationalist North Belfast has failed miserably.
In six years of the seven-year North Belfast Housing Strategy, the level of nationalists living in urgent housing need has remained at a critical level from 81 per cent in 2000 to 78 per cent at the start of 2006.
Cllr Ní Chuilín said the housing situation had human rights implications.
“She talked to the families who lived in the high rise flats and heard what their daily lives entailed, and what it’s like to live in the flats with small children.
“We want to use every opportunity to highlight this and to ask agencies with responsibility to address this crisis in whatever way possible.
“I know that I and the families very much appreciated her visit. She made them feel they are not forgotten.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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