Craigavon Borough Council is planning to go out in a blaze of glory when the new body (ABC) takes over in April, with a legacy of imaginative improvement projects that will benefit the entire area.
They range from Brownlow House to Maghery Country Park; Kernan Sports Arena changing rooms to Hoy’s Meadow; and Eden Villa to general improvement on the banks of the Bann.
Of course, being Craigavon Borough Council, there just has to be cross-party tension as the projects are discussed. And so it was on Monday night, the penultimate meeting of the council, with angry words over the Maghery project, and an even angrier confrontation over the refurbishment of community centres in Lurgan. It transpired that a community centre in a nationalist area was receiving a bigger ‘spend’ than two in unionist area. So, predictably, the whole issue was scrapped and it’s back to the drawing board.
The same tack was tried over a project at Maghery Country Park where the DUP suggested that an improvements scheme should be delayed “to consider the bigger picture throughout Craigavon”. Nationalist members retorted that country park improvements hardly applied to estates like Killicomaine and Mourneview. So the DUP saw the folly of that one, with someone quietly suggesting, “They just don’t want nationalist areas to get anything.”
A bit extreme maybe, although it has to be admitted that the off-the-cuff remark perhaps had a grain of truth. And it also has to be stated that certain elements in Craigavon haven’t immediately fitted into the more laissez-faire attitude of their Armagh and Banbridge partners in the new ABC set-up as the bedding-in process continues in the ‘shadow’ council. But they’ll have to learn.
Hopefully, Portadown will learn to care and share as the work to the People’s Park approaches its conclusion. It’s two months behind schedule, but with a large section of the population unfamiliar with the park for around 40 years, the delay is unlikely to register too deeply.
Full marks to the council for calling in consultants (the same firms that masterminded the People’s Park) to work their expertise on Eden Villa Park, so that all sections of the community will reap the benefits of improved sport and recreation.
The council has voiced its determination that both areas belong to the people – i.e. the ratepayers and taxpayers who are financing them. Yeoman efforts are on the way to reclaim the parks for the entire town, and there’s no point in saying it will be easy.
Portadown is a divided town, and it will require a re-awakened attitude to achieve the ‘sharing’ goal. Mayor Colin McCusker spoke wisely when he said that both communities must make the effort. And he cites Lurgan Park as a shining example where both communities – in a town perhaps more divided than Portadown – can happily use what is the second largest park in Ireland (behind Phoenix Park) for all sorts of recreational activities.
Portadown people don’t much relish taking lessons from Lurgan (most of all in Mourneview and Shamrock Park!) But we could certainly learn from their attitude to their superb park.