CIMS Branches Visit St John's, Malone  

Hard to Reach Communities

Following the success in 2007/08 when Branches were invited to attend a meeting organised by the St Finnian's, Cregagh Branch, the CIMS committee decided to hold a similar event on 29 October 2010 with the host Branch being St John's Malone.

  Brian Rowntree 

The speaker at the meeting was Brian Rowntree, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, who addressed the issues related to "Hard to Reach Communities".

Mr Rowntree grew up in a Council house in Newry where his father was a Labour Councillor. He was one of very few from this background to benefit from a university education. Today he chairs an organisation responsible for 93,000 homes in 507 estates catering for 400,000 people. This year the Housing Executive was the only public organisation to receive a UK Excellence Award from the British Quality Foundation.



Mr Rowntree expressed his serious concern for so-called “Hard to Reach” communities, particularly those in Protestant working class areas. People from those areas suffer from low self-esteem and regard themselves as second class citizens. Little value is placed on education, leading to high unemployment with so many young persons unemployable from lack of qualifications. The consequences are high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour. Other features of these communities are high levels of ill-health and more early deaths. These communities live outside the reach of all the churches and Mr Rowntree says that the local doctors are the people best acquainted with community life.

In the past two years the Housing Executive has held 600 meetings in these estates. People want an education which will give proper skills leading to sustainable jobs and to have a part in running their own communities. Mr Rowntree concluded his address with a challenge to his middle-class audience to play their part in the Regeneration of these communities

This challenge re "Hard to Reach" communities was also the subject addressed by the Archbishop of Armagh speaking to Armagh Diocesan Synod ( as reported in the CoI Gazette of 30 October). He said that he wanted to see a society in which all communities had full access to all the benefits society offers and where none are marginalized or feel themselves neglected. Many communities however, especially Protestant working class communities, he felt, had yet to feel any significant peace dividend. Archbishop Harper suggested the Northern Ireland Housing Executive should be invited to become the lead agency coordinating a sustained Multiagency Response designed to bring about positive change.

The meeting was attended by members from a number of branches throughout Northern Ireland including CIMS Chairman, the Rt Revd Alan Abernethey, Bishop of Connor, Alan Abernethy, the Dean of Armagh, Patrick Rooke, and the Rector of St John’s Malone, John Mann.