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Sailortown ‘abandoned’

By Kieran Hughes

A respected North Belfast community group who have been campaigning for redevelopment of a disused church in their area have expressed their anger that another church has received a significant funding boost ahead of theirs.

Sailortown Regeneration Group have been campaigning for the refurbishment of St Joseph’s Church, which has been closed since 2001, to be used as a community hub for the expanding population of young families in the area.

Last week it was announced that the Belfast Building Preservation Trust was to receive £400,000 from the Department of the Environment for the conservation and regeneration of Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church at Carlisle Circus.

Now, SRG, who had been previously working with Belfast Building Preservation Trust on St Joseph’s Church, believe they have been overlooked Trust because of Carlisle Church being on an endangered list.

Sean Baker, SRG secretary, said they are “very angry”.

“We are not happy with the Belfast Building Preservation Trust. They were working with us and we were working with them with a view to the restoration of St Joseph’s but they walked away without giving us any explanation .

“It seems that they have seen that Carlisle has come in to the top historical buildings list and they have jumped on that fact and abandoned us.”

He added Sailortown was an “abandoned community”.

“Alex Attwood was down here before as DSD minister. MLAs come down her, they talk to you, they listen to you but they do nothing. All we want is a yes or no – will we be getting any help? We just want a straight answer

“What we need is for Alex Attwood to come back and have a second look. We have been abandoned. We have nothing down here for the community to go and use, nothing for the children, nothing for the elderly. £400,000 would do a lot for this church.

“They are talking about Carlisle Church being the gateway to North and West Belfast. We are the gateway to Belfast and to the North.”

In response Paul Millar, Chairman of Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust, said there was never a “formal partnership between BBPT and SRG”

“We provided advice and support amounting to hundreds of hours over a five year period to SRG to enable a local organisation to move a difficult project forward,” he said. He added that in autumn 2010 the BBPT “regretfully decided to end all of its mentoring relationships, of which SRG was one” due to increasing workload and financial pressures”. He added that the Carlisle Church has been a BBPT project since 2008 and led the process of securing the inclusion of it on the World Monument Fund Watch list in 2010.


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