Council officers are to explore whether the demolition of the Meenan Square shopping block is possible after a meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council that was called in response to the recent disorder in the Bogside.
The officers will engage with the people of the area in a bid to address issues at the complex, which proved a lodestone for those intent on engaging in serious street disturbances last week.
Other agencies will be involved including staff at The Executive Office (TEO) ‘Urban Village’ regeneration project that aims to revitalise the entire Fountain/Bishop Street/Bogside interface area.
SDLP group leader, Councillor Martin Reilly initially proposed the cross-agency collaboration to deal with the problems but his motion, though supported by Sinn Féin, was amended by Colr. Patricia Logue to explicitly specify demolition as an option that should be considered.
And ultimately councillors were all but unanimous in approving the amended motion that has now mandated officers to “urgently work with all relevant agencies such as Urban Village and the local community to bring forward options to find a resolution to the problems posed at the Meenan Square location, including the potential demolition of derelict buildings”, with only the Independent republican councillor, Paul Gallagher abstaining.
Colr. Reilly said the Council needed to show leadership and use its “powers to see an end to the eyesore and grave nuisance that the building in Meenan Square presents”.
Colr. Patricia Logue fully agreed and referred to a “high level business case” that is being developed towards the refurbishment of the area.
Notwithstanding this she asked that Colr. Reilly’s motion be amended to specifically mention demolition.
She said the anti-social behaviour and criminality involving “young people and not so young people” witnessed in the area was chronic and long-standing and had plagued the area for a number of years.
DUP group leader, Alderman Drew Thompson said the attacks on the Fountain and on the PSNI could not be described as anti-social behaviour.
“When someone throws a petrol bomb that is attempted murder,” he said.
He claimed he was aware, from as early as the second night of disturbances, Sunday, July 8, that dissident republicans were orchestrating the violence.
UUP Ald. Derek Hussey accused those involved in the manipulation of children as “child abusers.”
Independent republican Colr. Gary Donnelly, meanwhile, suggested the continuation of sectarian attacks on the Fountain and against nationalists twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) showed that “we have failed as a society”.
He said it mattered little what transpired in the chamber as the young people involved have little respect for it or any authority. A “serious disconnect” existed between the council and a section of the community in the Moor, he said.