'˜Let's get these houses filled up with unionists'

A community group has apologised for a controversial Facebook post about the allocation of new social housing in the Dunmurry area.

Seymour Hill and Conway Residents’ Association posted messages on its Facebook page encouraging local people to apply for new houses in phase one of Connswater Homes’ 98-unit scheme at the former Dunmurry High School site.

However, the group sparked controversy when it posted “get yourself on the list and lets get these houses filled up with people from loyalist/unionist community”.

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The group also urged anyone interested in the houses, which are nearing completion, to contact DUP Councillor Jonathan Craig, saying he would help them fill in the necessary forms.

Lagan Valley Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn said the post raised a number of questions for Mr Craig and the DUP.

“It will be interesting to hear if Councillor Craig and the wider DUP agrees with the association’s approach, which appears to be to make sure if this badly needed development is populated only by people who identify as loyalist or unionist,” he said.

“If that is the case, how genuine is the party’s supposed commitment to fair treatment and equality?”

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Seymour Hill and Conway Residents’ Association has since removed the post and apologised for “using the wrong vocabulary”.

A follow-up post on the group’s page said: “It wasn’t our intention to cause any offence to the rest of our community, as a community group we represent everyone, but as we had a lot of residents come into the office feeling that because they are unionists/loyalists they are finding it hard to get housed in their own area where they grew up in & who want to be housed here, so the post was aimed at local houses for local people we apologise for using the wrong vocabulary, we as a community group work tirelessly with all different groups in the area, including cross-community groups in which we do great work with and who we have developed a great friendship with, we are all unpaid volunteers in our group who work up to 40 hrs a week bringing great developments to the area, we are all still on a learning curve and sometimes we do make mistakes and things are taking out of context, we hope this apology can rectify our mistake.”

Mr Craig, who described the wording of the original post by the community group as “clumsy”, accused Alliance of “playing politics with a local community group”.

“Housing allocation is a matter for the housing executive who do it on a needs basis. They don’t do it on religion or politics, they do it on a needs basis,” he said.

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“If anyone comes to me in my advice surgery I will help them with their needs and help them fill in forms.”

A spokesperson for Connswater Homes said: “We allocate properties using the NIHE housing waiting list. Applicants on the waiting list are assessed on housing need and the allocations will be carried out in line with the rules and regulations of the housing selection scheme.”