Q: Is housing in Belfast a political issue?

There was a bit of an edge to Talkback yesterday. They were discussing sectarian attacks on families in North Belfast.  Carál Ní Cuilín was on the phone to William Crawley, and spoke of unionist objections to housing for Catholics in North Belfast. Presenter William Crawley suggested this was “politicising” housing during  an election, Ní Cuilín  claimed this was not the case.  She cited an instance:

“We had Nigel Dodds in the middle of Brexit negotiations stepping outside of Brexit negotiations in No 10 Downing Street to object to housing for Catholics on the Crumlin Road”.

Crawley’s responsed with “You are now doing what I suggested – you are politicising this – feeding into the tribalism.”

I think Ní Cuilín  responded that this was lazy journalism, but if she didn’t she should have. I have had it up to my eyebrows with this one’s-as-bad-as-the-other analysis of our situation here, for two reasons. First, very rarely are two opposing groups equally at fault – almost certainly one will be more guilty than the other. The very law of averages suggests this. And those people who make this claim really should cite chapter and verse to indicate how this amazing equipoise can exist. 

Secondly, presenters have a duty to deal with the facts and then make an assessment.  Either Dodds did step out of No 10 Downing Street to voice objection to Catholic housing on the Crumlin Road or he didn’t. I don’t know which is the case but I suspect he may have done it, otherwise Ní Cuilín is unlikely to have made such a charge on the air.

But maybe my suspicion is ill-founded.  Which is where institutions like the BBC come in. Their presenters get paid enough to investigate and establish if assertions such as this – that the deputy leader of the DUP has helped block housing for Catholics –  are or are not facts. 

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