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Casement jobs announced as social club strikes deal

By Staff Reporter

Almost 120 new job and training opportunities will be targeted at Belfast’s most deprived areas under the Stormont Executive’s stadium construction programme – including the £76m Casement Park development.

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín made the announcement yesterday at Coláiste Feirste as she published social conditions that have been imposed on contractors building the new stadiums.

Seventy-eight posts will be taken up by the Casement development with most of the jobs expected to go to people from West and North Belfast as these have the highest levels of unemployment in the city.

These so-called ‘social clauses’ are legal ways of  ensuring that private contractors working on government projects achieve specific outcomes.

The news comes 24 hours after Casement Social Club and the GAA reached an agreement over the club’s future, paving the way for building work to begin on the new 38,000 all-seater Andersonstown stadium.

Minister Ní Chuilín’s department has been to the forefront in developing and expanding new social clauses, which are targeted at achieving widespread community improvements.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Minister Ní Chuilín described social clauses as the “nuts and bolts of the equality agenda”.  And she demanded that other government departments “work harder at maximising public good from public budgets”.

“Social clauses are the legal outworking of the equality agenda,” she said.

“We need to constantly try and find practical ways to turn aspirations into actions and that’s exactly what we have tried to do with social clauses in the stadium programme.”

 

Minister Ní Chuilín continued: “For too many years now, government departments and officials have worked on the basis that things can’t be done.

“I instructed officials that this must be done. At the very least, this approach takes the equality agenda into new territory for a government department in the north of Ireland. It also imposes new conditions on the private sector around the promotion of equality.”

Describing DCAL’s approach to social clauses as “a minimum baseline rather than a maximum ceiling”, Minister Ní Chuilín said that now other government departments must step up to the plate.

“Other Executive departments and public authorities need to be working with the same vision around these issues.  I don’t claim that DCAL has all the answers or that we have achieved the maximum outcomes. There are clearly lots of lessons we still have to learn – particularly around implementation and enforcement. But as the late Inez McCormack, who helped build the foundation for this approach, used to say, an inch down the right road is always progress.”

The entire stadium programme, including Ravenhill, Casement and Windsor Park, will now see a total of 70 jobs and 47 training opportunities ring-fenced for long-term unemployed of 12 months or more and young people. Under a new equality model, these must be targeted at sectors facing greatest inequality in areas of greatest objective need. The social clauses also require a range of wider community returns.

Minister Ní Chuilín emphasised that under EU regulations a government department cannot simply specify that only “local labour” works on publicly-funded projects.

“Local labour clauses would fall foul of EU laws,” she said. “However, DCAL’s social clauses are written to ensure that the ring-fenced opportunities for long-term unemployed and apprenticeships are legally targeted at sectors and areas of greatest deprivation. Since most of these are in West and North Belfast, it is probable that many of the new opportunities will be taken up by people here.

“Likewise, with the issues of sub-contractors, the social clauses had to be fair and competitive. However, by introducing more stringent conditions on a contractor’s carbon footprint in line with EU environmental protections, it is always going to be more likely that the main contractor and sub-contractor will be closer to the site of works.

“Although this seems technical, we have sought new and creative ways to ensure social clauses help deliver a sustainable framework for the local economy.”

 

Economic

Minister Ní Chuilín said that in shaping a new approach her objective has always been “the achievement of real change in the social, economic and equality outcomes of this society”.

Applauding the Minister’s approach, local MP Paul Maskey said: “This is big stuff that the Sports Minister is trying to implement. It is a demonstration of Carál’s determination that she simply hasn’t settled for what went before, and that she intends to build the agenda further.

“Nobody is saying this is a silver bullet to local unemployment in West Belfast, but there is no doubt that the Casement Park development and all that comes with that, is changing the entire social and economic landscape for the better.

“We have rightly complained about decades of neglect.  Now we need to embrace these opportunities for transformation.

“It is great to see a local Minister at the coalface on this stuff.  It’s not easy work, but I have no doubt that West Belfast will warmly welcome the positive social change happening through the Casement Park development, including these social clauses.”

The Andersonstown News has learned that during the Casement development there will 46 places for the long-term unemployed, 27 apprenticeship opportunities, two student placements and a five per cent apprenticeships requirement for contractors/ sub-contractors with over 20 employees.

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