This woman was first to approach the front and take the microphone. She was very well supported by most people in the room.

“The first time we had heard about this new 3G pitch was last year. The Consultation process on the pitches Strategy dates back to 2011. What hasn’t been consulted on is the location for this pitch. Sporting organisations were targeted – local residents weren’t. How have the council consulted on this? Belfast City Council is in breach of its equality duty. We want to see a proper consultation brought out of this meeting. Putting in a 3G pitch is not the magic bullet for tackling health inequalities. There is no better cure for mental illness. What we are seeing is making green spaces smaller.” – Sarah Boyce, Falls Park Residents Group

 Addressing Cumman Spoirt an Phobail, GAA and soccer coaches

“There is no real agreement on that piece of land. Anybody I talk to doesn’t want it. I feel really hurt by what is being done here. The council need to talk to people. If you build a 3G pitch – you will destroy the beauty of the park and the foxes and rabbits will leave.” – Male, park user

 “We went round the doors last night and there were a lot of concerns from people living in the immediate area. There were very few people in favour. Resident’s rights are paramount here. The council needs to open the Consultation up to a wider context. The council needs to knock on the doors of everyone.” – Councillor Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit

 “The analysis of need has purely taken place in regards to football. They should not be the only group to be considered. What about families, women, children and the disabled? This 3G pitch has been the easiest thing to do. A more creative and magical approach should address that need. There should be a better way of maintaining this green space. Once it has gone – it’s totally destroyed.” – Female resident

 “There needs to be a more widespread consultation. It can’t be held to ransom by two or three streets. The council need to ask the whole community. At Gort na Mona – we are land locked. A 14 foot fence isn’t going to be a blight on the landscape. We can use this facility. We’ve been taking the scraps from the council for years and now there is proper investment.” – Seamus Corr, Chairman Gort na Mona GAA

Back - for

 “We use sport to engage with people – it’s not about nature” – Cumman Spoirt an Phobail

 “How much are we going to pay for this? I’m not against 3G pitches but I am against it in the Falls Park. It’s a dead parrot and an artificial whack of keek.  It is an open democratic park and should be used by the people. Who thinks the consultation should be opened up to the wider West Belfast community?” – Flair Campbell, park user

 Everyone in the room raised their hand

 Loud shouting ensued between a female resident and O’Donnell’s GAA spokesman

“Every year, we pay £5,000 for three months to hire facilities because we have no space for training or playing matches. If we bring this in here we can invest in our own area. You can’t use a GAA pitch in the winter and that’s why we need 3G. There’s no point in even talking – we are being heckled down here.”  – O’Donnell’s GAA Spokesman

A woman in the audience shouted out that there were 3G pitches in Beechmount, Ballymurphy and Roden Street and asked the O’Donnell’s GAA spokesperson why they could not hire them. She shouted angrily “How many pitches do you need?”

Front - against

A resounding shout back from all the GAA groups was “There’s not enough to meet demand!”

The O’Donnell’s GAA Spokesman responded “A lot more than what we have. It’s good that the GAA are being recognised in sport. These modern facilities are long needed.”

 “We know that all these sporting organisations need funding. Why doesn’t the council invest the money in them instead?” – Michael Collins, Press Officer People Before Profit

 I don’t feel vulnerable walking my dog until this time of year when it gets darker earlier. But when I lived in North Belfast, I could walk my dog in the Waterworks because of the floodlights from their 3G pitch. I felt safer. There is a lot of area in this park and I don’t think the wildlife will disappear.” – Female dog walker

 “It’s very therapeutic to walk in this park. It would be good to have a nice ice rink for the kids and families to enjoy in winter.” – Gransha Drive resident

 “I live in Beechmount and have a severely disabled daughter. The only place we can walk safely is in this park. If this 3G pitch is built – where can we walk?” – Female park user

The woman was shouted down by girls from Cumman Spoirt an Phobail “You can use the footpaths!”

 The atmosphere in the room became very tense and there were calls for order. A lot of people were shouting among themselves.

A man took the microphone and said: “I am a lifelong supporter of St Galls GAA. There are two issues here. One is about the process and the other is about the decision. Referring to Councillor Gerry Carroll and People before Profit Press Officer Michael Collins – There seems to be lobbying here and we have already heard political input from the two people at the side of the room”  – Michael Culbert, St Gall’s GAA

 He was interrupted by a female resident. He told her to shut up. An argument broke out between them and five people walked out of the public meeting in protest.

 Michael Culbert and Flair Campbell then had a very heated debate about the need for sport and nature. Michael Culbert said “No matter what decision is made here – people will not be happy”.

“What are the other options for putting pitches in? All other land in West Belfast is set aside for housing. But there are derelict units all over Belfast. Why not put them there? In a city – you do not build on a green site.” – Andy Gray, Resident

 “We don’t even have a pitch – there aren’t enough of pitches to meet demand” – Davitts GAA Spokesman

 “What about bringing the 3G pitch to Boucher Road?” – Philip, GAA supporter

“That’s South Belfast!” – O’D’s spokesman

“We are being asked to pay for these facilities. The clubs that use them, do so for free at the minute. There will be only one 3G pitch to play GAA on and we will have to book it and pay through the nose to play on it.” – Middle aged GAA supporter

“I have received data through Freedom Of Information. I asked how often the existing 3G pitches in Belfast were being used over a period of one year. The findings were 75% of the time – these pitches were not in use. Why build another one when the ones already there are lying idle 75% of the time?” – Frances Maguire, Resident and GAA supporter

“Why can’t the schools lend the GAA clubs their pitches in the winter months?” – Female park user

 

*I didn’t stay to the very end – it was doing my head in*

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