Hamill’s Beat - A disturbing picture of life in Ballysally estate

Have you been watching the BBC’s ‘fly on the wall’ series from the sink estate in Coleraine?

It’s shocking. Ballysally estate is a stone’s throw from the town’s University of Ulster campus.

It features hard-working people doing their best in the tough economic climate, teenage truants, single-parent families caught in the benefit trap, disaffected youth and feckless individuals with all manner of problems. It’s a disturbing picture of life in the Coleraine estate, nicknamed “Ballyscally”.

Just to give one example, a young fella says, “Sex is over-rated but when you’re drunk you’d r*** anything.” Now there’s a charming insight into the human condition, to offer on TV!

When I was a boy, growing up in the town in the 50s and 60s, Coleraine people thought their town was a sort of unionist utopia.

The place was booming. People looked down their nose at Derry. Coleraine people believed their town was an altogether more suitable place for a university than “Dirty Derry”.

We heard a lot about the wonderful life that would flow from the “town and gown” relationship, as if the place was about to become the Oxford or Cambridge of the north.

What went wrong? Could it be that people were poorly served by their choice of political leaders in the intervening years? Still, at least they’re happy that they didn’t swap the blue skies of ‘Ulster’ for the grey mists of an Irish Republic.

The painted kerbstones and the union jack knickers on the washing line are evidence of that.

The estate is in Gregory Campbell’s East “Londonderry” constituency.

He loves to reinforce the point that this city is to be the, “UK City of Culture”.

So, can we take it that Ballysally is a UK sub-culture?

Norman Hamill writes in the Journal every Tuesday