Centre for the Study of Conflict
School of History, Philosophy and Politics,
Faculty of Humanities, University of Ulster
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"You might as well have holy gangsters"Sub-headings:
Rathcrone consists mostly of low-rise accommodation although there are five multi-storey flat blocks on the estate. In total there are 1526 dwellings. The estate was built in the 1950’s and 60’s by the Housing Trust, now the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (N.I.H.E.). The eastern edge of the estate also acted as the Eastern boundary of this study.
Glenfoot Road crosses Walkerstown High Street in the middle of the shopping area. Lower Glenfoot Road to the west rises through an area of private housing to the Clonderg Estate. To the south of Clonderg lies Drumglass, a large housing estate built in the 1960s and 70s with 1,600 dwellings. This estate extends to the Drumglass Road. This road was the westernmost extension of our study. Rathcrone and Drumglass can both be said to belong to the ‘Greater Walkerstown area’. A stylised map indicates the relation of the areas to one another.
Walkerstown was once a separate from Belfast. Today it is indistinguishable from much of suburban Belfast. Undoubtedly the vast majority of the present-day residents in all of our study area now feel part of the city.
In Rathcrone and Drumglass this may be explained by the history of the estates. Rathcrone is made up of families originally from inner-Belfast, often Sandy Row or Shankill Road. The population is very settled and the NIHE has no difficulty in finding people to move into the estate. In Drumglass many of the people arrived as the result of intimidation in other parts of Belfast. The estate is virtually entirely Catholic. The facilities on the estate are very limited and it is generally regarded as an area of serious deprivation.
At the entrance to Rathcrone stand two permanent signs with the script "Ratherone Says NO". These are clearly intended as territorial markers.
On the first tree visible from the main road hangs a large Union Flag and on many lampposts around the estate there are posters urging "Join the UDA". Grafitti on the estate is limited. Nevertheless the condition of the estate deteriorates markedly as one moves away from the main entrance. This is noticeable in graffiti and an unkempt appearance and in a reduction in the number of houses now privately owned. The graffiti is largely political: e.g. "Three Provies - One Stone" or UDA badges. The kerbs of pavements are painted red, white and blue.
Drumglass has paving stones of green, white and orange. Grafitti is widespread and includes murals on the gable ends of houses. Slogans include "Beware a risen people." This gives the estate an entirely different atmosphere. The local paper is largely identified as being Unionist and is not stocked in local shops. Many people expect to be neglected and treated with contempt by the local Council.
The towers of Rathcrone are clearly visible all over Drumglass. However, the physical contact between the two is effectively nonexistent. The one exception to this rule is contact made in the workplace. Walkerstown Industrial Estate effectively separates the two estates. It has nevertheless provided some employment for some people on both estates. This was particularly true before the collapse of multinational and Statesubsidised investments in the industrial estate. It was notable how cynical local people were about new developments following the collapse of the well-publicised large investment programmes for the area..
Walkerstown itself is largely middle-class. The houses are mostly owner occupied and the area has an atmosphere of relative affluence. There are very few wall-slogans to be seen. This is not to say that the area exudes wealth. Much of the housing on the western side of Walkerstown High Street is modest, although the housing on the eastern side is more mixed, including larger, Villa-type detached houses. Many people in the area travel to work in Belfast or outside the city in nearby towns. Much of the original coherence of the area has been lost, and the High Street is often filled with through-traffic. There has been some decline in the area as a shopping centre in recent years.
As we shall see, by far the most controversial issue in the area at present is the movement of Protestant families out of the area and of Catholic families into the area. Traditionally Walkerstown was a Protestant area. It is now clearly mixed with a Catholic majority on the western side of Walkerstown High Street. The exception to this is the Clonderg estate which retains its Protestant majority. Nevertheless there appears to be very little real contact between Clonderg and neighbouring Drumglass.
The neighbouring districts mentioned in our text are Ballyray, which begins on the northern side of the by-pass, Dunroe, which borders on our study area to the south. Both of these areas are similar to Walkerstown, although Dunroe remains predominantly Protestant. Ardbann, a newer Catholic housing estate borders on our study area to the to the west.
The Churches in the District
The Roman Catholic Church in the area studied is divided into two parishes. Drumglass (St. Brigid’s) Parish covers the area of the estate. The Church, Parochial House, Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, Family Centre, A.C.E. Scheme and St. Brigid’s Primary School are found together at the main entrance to the estate. The second Parish is Old Walkerstown centred on St. John’s. The Parish covers a huge area including Dunroe, Ballyray and Walkerstown. Originally Drumglass was part of this Parish.
Old Walkerstown Parish now serves an estimated 10,000 Catholics. It is de facto split into two main centres; St. John’s between Walkerstown and Ballyray (to the North of our area) and St. Peter’s in Dunroe (to the south of our area). Most of the Catholics in Walkerstown attend St. John’s. The St. John’s complex includes the Church, the Parochial House, St. John’s Primary School and St. Joseph’s Grammar School.
The Presbyterian Church has two congregations in the area of study. One covers the Rathcrone estate, while the other covers Central Walkerstown. Walkerstown was a major centre of Presbyterian revolt in the nineteenth century. The minister in Walkerstown was a leading non-subscriber. As a result, the original Presbyterian Church Building belongs to the Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church. The Church of Ireland also has two parishes. St. Dorothea’s serves the Rathcrone area while St. Peter’s covers Walkerstown. The Methodists have one Church in the area on the edge of the Rathcrone Estate. This covers Dunroe and Walkerstown.
There are also smaller Churches in the area. There are two Gospel Halls in Walkerstown, a Free Presbyterian Church in Rathcrone and a Christian Fellowship linked to the Bible College in Walkerstown. These smaller groups have not always been insignificant, especially in political terms.
The Churches and Personal Life.
Among those involved in the Churches, there were many who were very dedicated to them:
"I think that I only realised my own need to be saved when I was here in Rathcrone. I see this as part of my Christian life. I knew that it was God calling me." (Presbyterian, Rathcrone, Woman)
"For me the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy. It’s within me. With all that we do we have to see that in all things Christ has first place. It would be so easy to get away from that through busyness." (Man, Walkerstown, Christian Fellowship)
"We’d be quite involved with the sacramental work of the Church. We have a pre-baptismal course and that’s very popular. We’ve three or four babies every week." (Catholic Nun, Drumglass)
"About five months after I’d been attending the Free Presbyterian Church I was laughing and then all of a sudden a cloud of doubt attacked me. All these things happened. My husband asked me what was wrong, everybody noticed. By this time I was totally gripped with fear. My mind went berserk. My friend came to visit me and I thought it was Satan to take me away. They took me to all these Churches. The only person I wouldn't go to was the Presbyterian Minister. Nothing worked. Then one day I was watching TV. It ended up that it was a Catholic on it. I thought "he loves the lord!" On the next day I saw the Presbyterian Minister just walking around the estate. I just ran over and the love started coming, the deep love. From then on its just been each day." (Woman, Rathcrone)
"We pray with and for one another all the time. We have groups who meet, or if people have special needs. Its a very real ministry. I’d say many of us were Presbyterians first and have become Christians first." (Presbyterian Minister)
"We‘ve found a lot of encouragement in the Church. Many of those people from the earliest days are still with it and are now beginning to minister to people. Whenever I tear myself apart I do so for not going fast enough." (Church of Ireland Rector, Rathcrone)
At the same time there were dissenting voices:
"I would be very worried at times about my Church, the Presbyterians. They want to close down all the old organisations like the Boys Brigade and there can be a terrible amount focussed on the Minister." (Presbyterian man)
There is a sense that the Churches in decline as a focus of moral teaching. It is no longer seen as a necessary social duty to attend Church. This is true in all areas, and was often mentioned.
"My main worry is that while a lot of people are connected to the Church they are not committed People have the attitude "The Church should be there" but aren't prepared to take the initiative. My Choir’s down from 30 to 15. People still look to the Church for spiritual guidance. Certainly in times of death or sickness they want you there. Surprisingly so. (Church of Ireland Rector, Walkerstown)
"I think the Church has lost a certain amount of influence. You always hope something rubs off All Churches find this. The numbers regularly attending Church have fallen. Things of God aren’t as central as they ought to be." (Presbyterian Minister, Walkerstown)
"The majority on the estate wouldn‘t go to Church on Sunday. On Sunday mornings the Church is full, mostly people from the estate. In the evening it‘s just the stalwarts. There ‘s much more women than men. The Kirk Session is equal numbers." (Presbyterian Woman, Rathcrone)
"I suppose there's Paramilitaries in Rathcrone and Drum glass but they’ve long since left the Churches. There’s a task of evangelisation of the Gospels. The Church can just talk, we can‘t force people. " (Catholic Priest, Walkerstown)
The Churches and Social Life
There is no Community Centre on the estate with the effect that there is no single meeting place for the whole population. The ‘estate’ has a geographical existence but it is doubtful whether one can talk of a united community. In this context the three Churches provide many of the meeting points through the week.
The Activity Centre is deemed by the Council as the Centre for Rathcrone and Walkerstown. It has recently reopened having been closed following allegations of misappropriation of funds by the committee. The Centre operates as an agency which provides facilities. It has no membership. Outside the Churches it is the main focus of activity on the estate. The programme includes football Volleyball, Gymnastics, Men’s and Ladies Keep Fit, Snooker and Old Time Dancing. It is also the venue for the playgroup run every weekday and a Senior Citizens Group. In addition the Estate Flute Band uses the centre on one evening each week.
"The centre operates forRathcrone and Walkerstown. lts one of three run in the area. The main Leisure Centre for the area is some distance away. Casual users at this centre can play table tennis, volleyball and snooker." (Rathcrone Leisure Centre Attendant)
A Boy’s Brigade and a Girl’s Brigade are attached jointly to the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. Although no longer as large as they were, they remain large organisations. In the Church of Ireland there is a Church Lad’s Brigade and troops of Guides, Brownies and Bunnies. There are also two Youth Clubs on the estate run in the Presbyterian and Church of Ireland Halls. The larger of the two meets in the Presbyterian Hall on Tuesdays. Wednesday is used as a night for trips e.g. to the main Leisure Centre and on Sunday there is a meeting after evening service. Nevertheless there are several problems.
"We set the Youth Club up because there was nothing on the estate. At first we got over 80 coming. Hardly any of them had anything to do with the Church. We got all the hard nuts off the estate. Sometimes its very hard because everything that gets broken in the Church goers blamed on the Youth Club. I suppose most of it is done by them but it’d be nice sometimes not to be blamed for everything. There’s some on the session would like to see the club closed.... We got so many toughs that a lot of the girls and softer ones got scared away. Now the UDA ‘s started up football on a Tuesday night. They see it as a way of recruiting people - through foot ball. We’ve lost a few through that. The UDA ‘s very strong on this estate." (Presbyterian Youth Club Leader)
Football and the Flute Band are seen in the Churches in Rathcrone as ways by which the UDA and Orange Order continued their existence. On this estate, the people in the Churches see their task as providing an alternative to youth paramilitarism. Often the Youth Club is the only link the members have with a Church. Sunday night meetings are intended to be based on discussion rather than recreation. Often the intention has to be understood loosely.
"As long as people don’t mind a barrage of insults it works great. They are interested like. They ask us questions about our faith and so on. At least they come." (Youth Club Leader)
Youth Clubs of this nature present the Churches with a major challenge. In one sense they upset the decorum of expected Church behaviour in Northern Ireland. On the other hand such Clubs are often the only contact such young people have with Churches at all. The leaders of the club seem to feel pressured on both fronts. Certainly the leaders took the task seriously.
"On the 11th Night we go round. We try and make sure they don’t get into trouble. We also take them away sometimes - to Corrymeela, to the Mournes. But there’s a lot of poverty on this estate. Last year we organised a trip to the Giant’s Causeway. All the kids had to do was bring a packed lunch. I had a couple at my door asking ‘can we go if we haven’t got a lunch.’ There wasn’t even somebody who would make them a lunch." (Youth Club Co-leader)
The Church of Ireland has a smaller Youth Club. Although they meet on a Saturday they have not been able to attract many members.
"We have a very small Youth Club. We’ve more leaders than members! Youth Ministry is one of my weakest areas. I’ve tended to try and stimulate other things." (Church of Ireland Woman)
The Churches are also centres of activities for other meetings on the estate. The Mother’s Union and the Presbyterian Woman’s Association both have groups in the area. Each of the Churches run groups for prayer and fellowship in the middle of the week. The Presbyterian Church is divided into ‘Kinship Groups.’ These are small ‘Cells’ of 20-30 parishioners who meet in each others home.
"I find the kinship groups the most important part of my Church life. They’re much closer and people share more deeply." (Kinship Group Member, woman)
The Church of Ireland have a coffee morning every week as well as Wednesday Night meetings. These are known as ‘Saints Alive’.
"We meet every Wednesday for praise and teaching. It’s a great door in. Its been a great encouragement over the years. " (Church of Ireland man)
The introduction of an ACE-scheme in the Presbyterian Church has led to a number of innovations. The most significant has been the introduction of a lunch-time cafe on two days a week. Despite the fact that it is new, it is well-attended at present. In addition the Mother and Toddler Group has been able to establish a more regular routine. The Group itself, the only one of its kind to operate on the estate was the brainchild of one woman with her own young children.
"I don’t have a committee. I’m not really into committees. I see this as part of the Church. I had a baby and just began the group. Its a break for the mums. We don’t get grants because we don’t have a committee. We don’t have speakers because for us the main thing is a break. We have the VSB Toy Library and the Dental Health Officer. It's the only Mother and Toddler Group on the estate. There’s a couple of playgroups for over 3s but nothing else, not even swings.
Our minister was very supportive when I wanted to set it up. I’d love some more assistance. I heard of one group in Windsor Baptist where they do Arts and Crafts which would be lovely, but they‘ye a whole group of active women. Our mothers come from all over the estate. Most don’t go to the Church. I think its important to keep it linked to the Church. I don ‘t want everyone taking over.
This story illustrates the degree to which the Churches extended to the sphere of providing community outside the home. For many people one of the most crippling features of life in Rathcrone is loneliness. This is one area in which Churches continue to be sources of support.
The Presbyterian Church has a Pensioner’s Club. This is a meeting for older people every Wednesday afternoon. This too is an important feature of Church support. In each case, the support may be as important for those who instigate and organise such clubs and groups as for those who attend the events. Bowling Clubs flourish in all three Churches. These too are important social occasions. As one clergyman remarked.
"I often get the feeling that there’s a Church attached to the bowling clubs rather than the other way around."
Ratherone Churches were an important element in the community, part of a wider picture whose other elements were dominated by the UDA and the Orange Order. The Drinking Club, the Tenants Association, the Boys Football and the Flute Bands were regarded as recruitment centres for these. Of course, the two (UDA and Orange Order) are not synonymous. Nevertheless, the people in all three Churches who I spoke to tended to regard the UDA with horror and the Orange Order as declining. It remains true however that the Churches, the UDA and the Orange Order were the three main structures within which social life was lived.
Walkerstown is dominated by commuters who work outside the area. Houses are privately owned and there is no sense of uniformity in the area. Among young people, there are a considerable number at different schools on offer. Children in the area attended local schools or travelled to leading Grammar schools nearby. This has the effect of scattering the community in various directions. People may be prepared to travel further for their social life together. Walkerstown does not give the impression of being a tight-knit community. The Protestant Churches seem to be concerned most deeply with the decline in numbers:
"Parish Organisations are very difficult. You get the children until about 11 or 12 and then they drop out. This does cause me a lot of worry. I find a problem of leadership in the area There is a reason for this in that the child population is decreasing. I’ve about 500 homes of which 200 are aged 65 or over. We have about 100 in the Sunday School. When I reckon that there’s only 200 in the school I think its going quite well. Quite a number of them are dropped off in the car, and that worries me. Also lam saddled with the less attractive organisations. I only have the Church Lads Brigade while the Presbyterians have the B.B." (Church of Ireland Rector)
"The Girl’s Brigade still holds on but the Boy’s Brigade has declined. It used to be packed but it’s nothing to what it was. It’s outside our control. It’s a discouragement to me. You nearly think it’s a failure on your part. If it wasn't for people coming back we’d have nothing. My biggest elders districts are all in Dunroe and beyond." (Presbyterian Minister)
The biggest fall in numbers is felt in the youth area. Both Presbyterian and Church of Ireland have youth clubs and Sunday Schools. The opposite is true for the Catholics.
"At one time this area would have been predominantly Protestant. Now there’s very few Non-Catholics in Lower Glenfoot Road. This has been evolving over the last 15 years." (Catholic Teacher)
St. John’s has a very large Youth Club which competes with other Youth Clubs in the Belfast and South Eastern Education Board areas. Walkerstown also has a State Youth Club in the centre of the Walkerstown. It too is suffering from the general decline in numbers in the Young Protestant Population. For St. John’s, it appears to be very important that the club participates in cross-community events.
"We’d encourage our Youth Clubs to engage in inter-club activity with State Sector clubs. The Anglo-Irish Agreement seemed to block things from the Protestant side... one of our Youth Clubs was attacked." (Catholic Priest.)
The Parish also has Scout and Guide troops with all their attendant junior sections. Both are affiliated to their respective Catholic and Irish national organisations. Despite mixing at sporting level the reality is that each Church in Walkerstown runs its own events.
"We don’t have very close relations with the Roman Church... All our youth organisations are parallel (Church of Ireland Rector)
The same is true of other organisations in the area - PWA., Mothers Union, Legion of Mary and so on. Social life is lived in a particular Church not across denominational divides.
The Orange Hall in Walkerstown stands close to the main cross-roads on what has become the "Catholic side" of the street. Nevertheless the Orange Hall has as yet escaped serious damage. Unlike in Rathcrone, both Presbyterian and Church of Ireland Churches have strong Orange elements.
"I’ve got a good few Orangemen in my congregation. Nobody ‘d stop them using the Church, but we’re no good because we’re off the main road in the backstreets. You have to be seen." (Presbyterian Minister)
The Order is an important element in Protestant culture. It must be stressed, however, that the influence of any one group is limited in an area which has seen the erosion of a collective sense of belonging. Both established Protestant Churches were primarily worried about decline.
"The Roman Catholic school and chapel have been a great attraction. The Presbyterian cause doesn‘t flourish. There’s no hope here. Sunday School going down and the Organisations going down. The age-group which is loosing most is the children." (Presbyterian Elder)
"In previous times Walkerstown was a very Protestant area. In the last few years changes are taking place, Walkerstown has become more Catholic. I don’t want to use the word fear but people talk about it. Every house in Beechlawn changes. I know the same things happened in Ballyray." (Church of Ireland Rector)
The growth of ‘suburban individualism’ is particularly strong in areas like Walkerstown which have become dormitory areas for people who work elsewhere. However the problems of decline on one side are mirrored to some extent by the strong growth in the Catholic Parish.
All Churches have bowling clubs, there is a badminton club in the Presbyterian Church and a table-tennis club in the Church of Ireland. Although the Churches emphasise their own changes, there are no other meeting places of similar scope in Walkerstown. When Churches disappear they do not appear to be replaced with other vibrant social centres. Perhaps the search for closer community is part of the explanation for the growth of house-groups. In Walkerstown there is a strong Christian Fellowship.
"We meet every Sunday in the Bible College. You’d get 140-150 people. 95% are committed Christians. We’d see ourselves as a community. Our particular burden is with the poor and needy. We'd have male and female leaders. I’d be very keen to get women involved" (Fellowship Member, Male)
The Fellowship have rented out an old house in Clonderg. This they use as an important focus of their work (including ACE). Much of their work is with ex-prisoners and also with the elderly. They have a pensioners club one afternoon every week drawing pensioners from all over the area. The fellowship has become, for many of its members, the focus of their social lives as well as a personal commitment.
Drumglass is separated from Clonderg by a ramp and a small open space. There are plans to build a major road on the open space so cementing the psychological divide. The lives of people in Drumglass and Clonderg, though geographically close, are lived in virtually total separation. It is a vivid example of Northern Ireland’s voluntary apartheid. Drumglass has one central Church. More than elsewhere, the Church leadership is actively involved in ‘political’ divisions on the estate. The position is complicated by the fact that some ‘religious’ adherents of the Church are ‘political’ opponents.
The main social centres on the estate outside the Church are the two drinking clubs, the nearest pub and the Activity Centre. The drinking clubs are at each end of the estate. One is controlled by Sinn Fein the other by the Workers Party. This means that large numbers on the estate do not go to one or both. The Church is probably the one building on the estate where every resident has been. To this extent what one observer said is true.
"The Church is the hub of everything on this estate and the priest is the centre of the hub." (Youth Club Leader)
Nevertheless this place at the hub is not unchallenged. In terms of social life the Church is responsible for the large Youth Club on the estate. At present the club has 400+ members registered although perhaps as few as 80 will turn up on any one night.
"We had 330 members last year and that was a terrible year for us." (Youth Club Leader)
The Club is regularly vandalised. There are now only three windows left in the club building. Two of these are covered over with iron bars and one with a metal grill. Church involvement in the club is through the management committee chaired by the local curate and with representatives of the schools. The alternative to organised youth clubs on the estate seems to be hanging around on street corners. There is a high level of vandalism in Drumglass and this too is attributed to different causes.
"I’d say unemployment is the biggest problem. For men on this estate they don ‘t have any dignity. The need for a macho image means that the paramilitaries are the next best option." (local Man)
"The majority of kids I work with on the joyriders project come from that local school. The youngest is 17, and the oldest is 24. Their problem is often literacy and numeracy. The school’s not doing its job. " (local man)
Social Services and Healthcare are located on the nearby and newer Ardbann estate. The result is that nearly all the facilities for Drumglass itself are centred on Church premises. The Church circulates a newsletter to every household in the parish. There is also a family centre which has an organised programme. From Monday to Thursday every week there is a ‘cultural programme’. This involves the teaching of Irish language and culture to a number of Groups.
"We teach Irish language, Music and traditional dancing. We get the mothers and the 5-10 year olds. It ‘san interest of mine. We get 10-14 year olds but what with homework we get them less. We have a couple of weeks in the summer as well. I see it as a way to work between Sinn Fein and the Church." (Family Centre Co-ordinator)
The Irish language is the subject of revived interest in Drumglass. The Irish playgroups and schools movement have a number of supporters in Drumglass. The interest remains confined to a minority. It is significant nonetheless. The Irish cultural activity in the Family Centre is partly seen as a means by which Sinn Fein can be hindered in claiming a cultural monopoly.
The Family Centre has a creche, a playgroup and a Mothers Group on Tuesday and Thursday morning.
"The Council ignores this area. Everything is from the parish. They see Drum glass as a Provo estate. Does the Council know that Drum glass exists? We have a programme of speakers and outings. We also go on weekends away to Corrymeela." (Family Centre Worker)
The mothers club is well-attended. Nevertheless as the co-ordinator pointed out.
"Because of the position of the Centre we maybe only reach a half of the people we might reach."
The importance of social events can be illustrated by local reaction to the ending of a women's s night in the family centre. Recently this was stopped as part of the Church’s drive against alcohol. In some circles this has given rise to annoyance.
"This priest has stopped the Mothers Night at the Family Centre. The women would go down and take their own drink with them. They’d have a laugh, good crack and stagger home. But this priest is very anti-drink. He said that they could all go down to the Hitching Post (local pub). But it was different. A lot of men let their women go because they knew there was no other men. Now they won’t let them go. As well as that the women got less hassle." (Local Woman)
The lack of alternative facilities means that a Church decision on, for example, alcohol automatically becomes a general policy for the area. This monopoly of decision-making, facilities and funding means that Church-critics are left with an easy target. Suggestions that the Church acts as the surrogate State in West Belfast take root easily.
The Family Centre remains the venue for bingo on Wednesday and Sunday nights. This is well-attended on both nights. Outside drinking, alternatives to Church venues are difficult to come by. The Tenants and Community Association had Government funding cut, due to suspicion that it was dominated by IRA-linked groups. At the same time funding to all Community Groups was now seen to be subject to political vetting. The cutting of ACE money from such groups has become something of a cause celebre in West Belfast.
"I’ll say this for the government - they got their facts right.... The Probation Board and Social Services give money to the Provos by other means." (Catholic Worker)
"All the Community Groups have had their grants cut. We got £90. But there’s not much of that goes for guns." (Woman’s Worker)
Some of the groups which had their funding withdrawn were based at the Drumglass Activity Centre at the centre of the estate. The Centre is widely regarded as a white-elephant which is likely to close.
"There were no facilities in Drumglass until 1981. This changed in 198] under pressure as the Government threatened the Council through the Department of Education that they would build a community centre. To stop this the Councildid build a centre but not a community centre, rather an activity centre. It’s run directly from Council headquarters, and is shortly to be closed under privatisation... The Council’s responsibility is to provide recreation facilities. It (the Centre) is used but it’s being priced out of people’s pockets. There ‘s 80% unemployment among heads of households on this estate." (local S.F. Councillor)
The Church also provides groups for handicapped, mostly related to faith issues. These are known as SPREAD Groups. This supplements a community group for handicapped people which meets in the activity centre every Saturday morning. As we shall see, there is also provision through ACE for work with old people.
Perhaps the position of the Church in Drumglass was best summed up in two statements.
"We’d be seen as the opposition to the IRA. They’d see us as fairly stiff opposition I think." (Catholic Church Worker)
"My attitude is that the Church is solely there for religious activity. It’s there to look after the soul. The Church is highly involved where it shouldn’t be. It owns all the land that’s available. They’ve three schools and ACE schemes. Its now trying to purchase the old heating plant and it‘ll probably succeed. All the buildings are owned by the Church. "(local man, Sinn Fein Councillor)
The official Church is the biggest institution in Drumglass. It retains its function as part of the umbrella under which social relationships are made. Increasingly it finds itself driven to adopt a stance as a ‘party’ in local disputes which make it difficult to retain the universal position of the past. Unlike Walkerstown "the Church" is a singular, it is not ‘fighting’ or ‘struggling with’ preserving denominational purity. Instead there are intimations of a power-struggle between various groups on the estate. The boundaries are not absolute but the issues at stake are very visible.
The grip of the Church leadership as an ultimate authority seems to be weakest among the young on the estate. School teachers and youth leaders noted the seemingly permanent problem of vandalism and indiscipline in the area. It was clear that the permanent economic depression, de facto a reality since the building of the estate, has had a deep effect on the area.
"Discipline is our biggest problem. A lot of the children in this school come from one-parent families or broken homes. A bout fifteen years ago that was unheard of Its significant now. We ‘re talking 20, 30, 40 families in this school. That unsettles the kids". (Primary School Headmaster)
(a) The Churches and Social Services (including ACE)
In Drumglass the economic deprivation of the area is immediately apparent. Housing conditions, vandalism and a certain gaunt look on many faces confirm the strains of life. Many who gain employment seek to leave the estate, meaning that the community on the estate itself is always dominated by unemployment. This is noticed even in the schools.
"The parents are very keen that their kids do well. They want their children to go on and they see education as their way out. All our school functions are well-supported... The biggest problem is very high unemployment. We ‘re even worse hit by it on this side of the estate than the other primary school on the estate. It causes an awful lot of stress. We’re made very aware of it.. We’ve had a lot of parents who're upwardly mobile. If they can they move to Walkerstown. Some move the children to St. John’s. Its seen as more prestigious, middle class." (Primary School Headteacher)
The Church in the midst of this situation has become involved in searches to find ways out of unemployment. In this they have been heavily reliant on the governments’s ACE schemes. Initially the Tenants Association on the estate also had an ACE scheme. They ran a benefits advice centre and a campaign to encourage people in Drumglass to apply for benefits. There were allegations that many Tenants Associations were fronts for the IRA and that government money was being channelled through West Belfast Groups to the Provisionals.
"We had a very good Tenants Association with six ACE workers who were running a Dole take-up campaign. In my opinion it was the best Community Groups Association in the area. It was very, active. Two years ago third Hurd (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) made a sweeping statement and ACE-funding to the Tenants Association was cut. At the present time its trying to revamp itself Its a bit crazy. The Tenants Association gets a flat from the Housing Executive. The only government body that stopped was the DED (Department of Economic Development, sponsors of A CE). You have the scenario where the Tenants Association were punished because Drumglass returned a Sinn Fein Councillor to represent the majority view. Douglas Hurd has politically vetted Drumglass." (Tenants Association ex-chairman)
But as we have already seen there are different views on the estate of this phenomenon. The result is that the Church is now the main means of bringing funds into the community. This has led to allegations that in West Belfast the Catholic Church has become an arm of the State. While this is a very shallow analysis it has political effect. Church projects are not lay projects. There are clergy on every committee, more often than not in the chair. This applies to ACE Schemes, Youth Clubs, Schools and Parish Groups in Drumglass. This leads to other biases in non-State agencies.
"I’d like to apply to N.I.V.T. for more funds to employ Mary to work permanently with old people. But they’re very anti-Church. They’re all for democracy that works. Where is the community group that doesn't get dominated by cliques? They end up dominated by three or four strong men." (ACE-scheme co-ordinator)
"The way I look at it is that there’s gangsters everywhere today and you might as well have holy gangsters." (Local woman)
"The thing about the Parish is that its a more permanent thing. They’re here for longer. Other things set up and close down or somebody might run off with the money. Its less likely to happen with the Parish." (Local man)
"One of the problems with some Sinn Fein thinking is that they see it as take the money and do as little as possible. The problem is that if you want some community work done you’re sunk with this attitude." (Local man)
The Church leadership finds itself in a dilemma.. The clergy are open to widespread suspicion of enjoying the concentration of power to themselves.
"All the ACE-workers are going to run through the Church. They’re going to say yes or no to everything." (Local community activist, woman)
"It’s like Hitler. They’ve (the Church) got their fingers in every pie. Its empire-building and I don’t like it. I’m a Protestant. I only came here cause I married. The kids go to Church with their dad. Not that anybody is any better. They make you do a course before you get your child christened, its ridiculous. They came to my house with a video. If I’d seen them coming 1 would have been away up the road." (Local woman)
"Everything is run by the Church and the Council. The people control none. The people know better how to use facilities better than the Church." (Sinn Fein Councillor)
There are widespread accusations that the clergy are patronising in their approach to social issues. This now extends to the Church’s monopoly on the provision of local work through A.C.E.
The fact that ACE schemes have a professional structure means that while they are attached to the Churches in name, they do not require any commitment on behalf of members of the parish or congregation, except those directly involved. In Church schemes this involvement is clerically led. Drumglass A.C.E. Centre stands adjacent to the Family Centre. It acts as a centre for 46 ACE workers under a full-time manager. A second core-worker is responsible for the Family Centre. There were and are immense problems on the estate.
"One of the difficulties in deprived working-class areas is that people are used to scratching a living. They take what benefits they can get. A lot of people taking these jobs were broken people. I had a lot of people nipping off not doing their hours. When I came the A CE scheme was a local joke, because people didn’t do any work. The scheme started off with Church members and the workers weren‘t supervised. They relied on the choir and a few people. Some of them were very unreliable. Then there are other problems. Because we look after play areas and walkways the people have become very dependent on them. The first year I had to physically go out and supervise the work. Round the flats, 500 of them, you’d have been lucky if 100 had bins. They were rat-infested. The young ones who lived there had rip-roaring parties. It's improved now. The men go round and some people keep it a bit cleaner. The main problem is lack of heart. We‘re just nibbling away hoping there’ll be a ripple. "(ACE Co-ordinator)
ACE workers do Environmental Improvement, work visiting the elderly, run the cultural programme (Irish), help in the family centre, creche and playgroup. There was a widespread sense that the men on the estate could not be interested in programmes except employment.
"I feel sorry for the men. A man round here is nothing if he hasn’t a job." (Local woman)
"The only thing which will interest the men and get them out is work." (ACE Worker, man)
The ACE scheme management see this as an important part of their function.
"The other thing we do is build up the people’s confidence. We help keep up hope. There was a guy who phoned today who I had to sack before. He was a real mixer, very clever but in the wrong sort of way. Now he wants a job again. I was very surprised he rang." (ACE co-ordinator)
Drumglass people seem to have been encouraged by apparent successes on the neighbouring estate. The Church is involved in negotiations to take over the heating plant to use as a workshop and training centre. The only local group who could hope for funded backing from Government sources is the Church. While this is seen as the only way to avoid public money going into IRA coffers it leaves the Church with local monopolies making it an easy target, and upsetting local political balances. The Church can argue, of course, that it is ‘the community group’ par excellence. Nevertheless it concentrates power-rivalries at local level against the Church and increases the sense of the priest as the centre of the hub of the estate. This has serious implications for the relationship of Church institution and parish.
ACE has resulted in paid work with old people. It has increased the amount of Social Services being undertaken under Church auspices which may not be the same as work done by the Church. ACE has confirmed that isolation, fear and loneliness are the biggest problems facing the elderly. Care which ends abruptly after a year creates its own difficulties. St. Brigid’s are extremely alert to the possibility that they might be being used.
"I don’t think Social Services care. They come and then they leave again. People just think they’ve come to lock up their children. We don ‘t want Social Services or Housing Executive to get us to do their work." (ACE Worker (with elderly))
"I think all care and caring for the person has gone. They (Social Services) are just doing their jobs for the money. Some of the people on the ACE scheme too, they just do their jobs. But see the crowd of girls I have now, I’d love to get them kept on." (ACE Worker - Co-ordinator with Elderly)
"We don’t have a direct link with Social Services. They want our help but not our knowledge." (ACE Care Worker)
The sheltered dwellings for elderly people at the back of the estate are used for a weekly get together for old-people. The dwellings are meant to be looked after by a married couple who live in and act as wardens. In Drumglass nobody applied for the job. ACE schemes of local people have filled a yawning gap in this area. Most of the workers with the elderly are part-time and women. The question remains as to what happens to worker and old person after ACE?
The other group involved in intensive pastoral work on the estate are the nuns, members of the order of the Sisters of Mercy. The convent is on the estate beside the Parochial House. These are six sisters working in Drumglass.
"There’s quite a number of single-parent families. It reinforces the view that families are breaking down all over and society’s becoming more unstable. It’s not confined to Drum glass. We work in areas. 1 have one block and everyone else has an area. We’d kind of be ‘responsible ‘for an area.... I’ve found out about the emergency services. We don’t seem to be dealing with housing. We’d be quite involved with the sacramental work of the Church. We have a pre-baptismal course... We do a home visit. Then the mother comes up here after the baby’s been born. For me its a great way to meet people and make contact. As well a that there’s confirmation. I’m on the board of St. Brigid’s Primary School and I’m the minutes secretary. The Principal asked me if I'd come down to confirmation. St. Brigid’s is one of the Primary Schools. I’m on the committee for St. Brigid’s and another sister’s on the board of St. Anthony’s.... It seems to me that the sister’s have grown up with the parish. One teaches music in the schools and she has the choir’s. She develops them after school hours and gives them private tuition. Her mission is music. The Sisters work with the people. The people don’t need much support... We work like a family." (Sister)
The Sisters are well-known throughout the estate. Of course they are not free of their critics. In some quarters, the division of the Parish into area’s has been criticised as contributing to the division of the area.
"The other problem in this area is that the Church divided the community. In 1978 the Church set up committees in each area to see who could raise the most money for a chapel and compete against each other. It’s a big problem. The Church in their wisdom did this just to raise money. Most people here don’t say they come from Drumglass. They come from their original place. That’s been a problem - no Drumglass identity." (Tenants Association member)
This illustrates how easily the Church can be blamed for all the problems of the area in part because of their powerful position and their claim to extend over the whole estate, something no other group in Drumglass can claim.
The role of the Sisters is an important one. They are often the direct face of the Church. To some extent they are an intermediary level between clergy and people, although their base in Drumglass is deep.
"The sisters came here before there was a parish. There is no parish Council. The result is that the sisters carry a lot of the parish work." (Sister)
Nevertheless the approach of Sisters has its own critics.
"When we started the nun came over and after the meeting she said she’d like to give a talk on the Billings method of contraception. We said no, ‘cause they have classes in it every Tuesday in the family centre." (Local woman)
"Another sister came over and asked us to join ‘Life’. I said to her ‘we’re all against abortion here but what do they say about contraception?’ Sister said you weren’t allowed to use artificial methods. 1 said "Well we’d be hypocrites if we joined because there’s women in our group on every sort of contraception. Mind you we’re all against abortion. We did have the women doctor in who showed us all the things, like a coil. Some people had them in but they’d never seen them ". (Group organiser)
"There was a nun who wanted to teach our women how to be ‘economical’, she wanted to show people how to ‘economise’, how to bake and all. But she wanted to go into their houses. So we said no, we let her run classes. People know how to bake." (Local woman)
The Church in Drumglass is the major local agency for social services, A.C.E. work and community facilities. As a result it has all the benefits of power and has set up all the accompanying power struggles. As such it is in danger of becoming seen as external to the people, amidst the people but not the people. This is not the case at present but some of the elements of this shift have emerged. While few in Drumglass regard the Church as ‘British’ or ‘enemy’ it is widely regarded as an ‘authority’ with all the accompanying problems.
Rathcrone too has a problem of unemployment. As in Drumglass the strains of modern living are immediately apparent on the estate. The Primary School is the first place where the problems emerge.
"The estate itself has a hell of a percentage not working. About 40% of kids come from single parent families, mostly the result of marriage breakups. There’s only a mother at home. Not many of those mothers have job... Until they changed it, about half the school were entitled to Free Meals. Even since the change we have about one third still eligible... I’d see parents here with social problems. The worries are about not paying rates and electricity bills and the effect on the kids." (Primary School Head Teacher)
There is also a high proportion of elderly people on the estate. This too contributes to the numbers of people seeking assistance whether material or personal. The Churches in this situation are the most organised groups on the estate. They too have used the A.C.E. schemes to provide employment and meet some of the perceived needs of the estate’s people. Unlike Drumglass, the Churches do not have a monopoly on ACE work. Local Social Services combine with a local group set up to promote employment on the estate. They are responsible for environmental improvements on the estate and run a number of activities for the elderly in the Activity Centre. This imbalance between funding in Drumglass and Rathcrone does not appear to be a matter of money. Rather in Rathcrone the State agencies can monitor their finances more directly. While it is true that suspicions of fraud led one group to lose their backing there are still projects outside the Churches. The atmosphere between the community groups and the Churches is not fraught with the same bitterness identified in Drumglass.
Three of the Churches in Rathcrone work together on the Rathcrone Council of Churches. Together they manage the Rathcrone Caring Office. The Office is a small cottage shared with the N.I.H.E. office for the estate.
The fact that it is a Church-run organisation is seen by the Churches as a positive matter. The idea grew from the experience of the Methodist Minister with an ACE scheme set up in another area of Belfast.
"1 suppose the Ministers of the three Churches saw the need at the start. All the Churches have latched on to the ACE-scheme. Its a good way for seeing to the needs in the area. The Methodist Minister is Minister of Dunlure where there was an ACE scheme. He was the most interested. We’re officially a branch of Dunlure Community Services. Now the Presbyterian Minister is interested. We get on very well. The Housing Executive gave us these houses, and there’s not many houses free on this estate.... We started in 1986. The Methodist Minister saw this as an opportunity. We have seventeen ACE workers. We’re under the umbrella of Dunlure Community Services. They do some of our administration. There’s another scheme in Ballyray. We’re three together. The DED encourage this trend of groups coming together because ACE workers now have to have a proper training." (ACE Work Co-ordinator)
"I saw the estate and it’s needs. I thought the Church, if its to be the Church should do something. I saw it as a way to get people off the dole. I think the Church should take a leading role in the community. If that boils down to one Church then so be it, but if we can do it together so much the better. Together we are 1400-1500 people... If you look at the teaching of Jesus, he looked at the whole person. 1 feel we have to be with people where they are. We can no longer wait for people to come to us. It makes folk see that we care wherever we are. If we achieve that we’ve achieved a lot. Its in a quiet way. If people want it, that’s it. I know now that people who wouldn‘t go near a Church would come here (Caring Office) because the Churches are involved and you can trust it." (Methodist Minister)
The work of the Caring Office covers a number of areas. There as a scheme for visiting the elderly, ensuring that they have company and their material needs met e.g. paying bills, shopping done and so on.
"We have an environmental project which employs eight men. They do work for pensioners, one parent families and people on low income. We do grass-cutting, windows, decoration and odd jobs. Then we have home visiting for pensioners or people in need of a chat. The home-visitors are all part-time but they’re very important because they keep up contact. Some people need a lot of attention. Others don’t need any. There was one wee woman who didn’t let our worker in. Our other thing is our job-search. We‘ve one worker. She does benefits advice and job search. We ‘d like it to be more used. When all the benefits changed we did a benefits uptake scheme from January to March and that was very busy. The DHSS encouraged us to do that, it took some of the heat off them. People came to see our workers not them.
Then we’ve a self-help group for depressed people. There’s only three in Northern Ireland. They do all seem to get help from it. We’ve eight or nine regulars. They drop away and then they come back. They’re all characters. We put up posters round about. We put leaflets round the doors when we started. We do our best round the doors." (ACE Coordinator)
The ACE scheme has led a number of people to get involved in community work. In Rathcrone, the Churches appear to be in this work. In Rathcrone the A.C.E. Project had an open relationship to Social Services and the Housing Executive.
"They let us use their premises. Even if we do criticise them we do it privately. They see us as a group who want to work with them for a better community. If you’re not out to knock them, they’re happy to help you. There ‘s a woman from Social Services who gives guidance." (Methodist Minister)
The Churches have been paid to do large amounts of community work, recruiting locally. The fact of local recruitment does mitigate the implications of Social Work as a ‘profession’. It nevertheless involves ‘the Churches’ as ‘agencies’ with ‘employees’ rather than ‘communities’ with ‘members’. The relationship of agencies to clients is not the same as that of Churches to their members. In ACE this distinction is seriously blurred.
It remains to be seen whether ACE work eats into the Church as ‘the community of the people’. In the meantime it provides temporary employment and a number of services.
Some of the problems of services which become seen as ‘charity’ are illustrated in the case of the nearly-new shop. This is open for two afternoons each week in the hall of the Methodist Church. Half of the profits go to the Methodist Church and half of the profits go the Caring Office.
"We’d heard before that ‘thrift shops’ hadn’t worked just from people chatting. Then we thought with the ending of single payments maybe it would be needed." (ACE Co-ordinator)
"I want to advertise our shop in Walkerstown and Milltown. People might prefer to travel a wee bit for their clothes. A lot of people don’t like the idea that the original owner might see them wearing their clothes. Everybody would know you’ve been to a thrift shop. They don’t like to be seen in second-hand clothes shops either. If it was a wee bit out of their area they might come." (Local woman (thrift-shop volunteer))
The Presbyterian Church also has three ACE workers employed under a different management. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland Board of Social Witness has a scheme whereby a central management based at Clifton Street in Belfast allocates ACE money to congregations throughout Northern Ireland. The first full-time worker, only became an ACE-worker after a year’s voluntary work.
"I gave up my work. I felt called to do something for the youth of my own area. I live on the estate and grew up here. I was very much supported by the congregation. I just decided to live on faith. Somehow, whenever I needed money the money turned up. I had a bit saved but not much. Then Clifton Street offered us the ACE posts." (Youth Leader, woman)
The ACE scheme also provided two part-time posts. The ACE workers have supplemented the congregation more by enabling them to be paid for work which was previously done voluntarily. This includes Youth Work, Counselling and Visiting. The groups which meet in the Church, elderly, mother and toddler etc. can be provided with tea and coffee. The biggest development was of a lunch-time cafe on Mondays and Thursdays. All the cooking, preparation, serving and clearing was done by the ACE team. The Service was advertised by a door-to-door leafleting campaign. Prices were kept to the cost of the food.
"Since we started in September things have picked up really well. We’d get from 30 to 70 people in each lunch-time." (Part-time ACE worker)
Nevertheless the drawbacks of reliance on ACE were also clear. ACE funding for two of the posts ended at the end of January. The next review of ACE-funding was not due until March. This left the Church with a dilemma. Having built up a service based on regularity the cafe was faced with closure for at least two months.
"We made an appeal to the congregation for money to keep on the two workers for another two months. I think we’ve got enough. The problem is that this is a congregation in a poor housing estate. We can only ask for so much. We always get when we need." (Presbyterian Elder)
In the case of visiting schemes such a gap could be very serious. Here, the workers also felt disappointed by the ending of funding by ACE given that they were ineligible for employment by ACE for a future twelve months.
"I don’t know what I’ll do with myself now once I’m back at home. You get very used to the company, and the money." (ACE Worker)
The ACE scheme has certainly enabled the Churches to expand into areas they had previously not touched. It appears to have given hope and restored some dignity for many of the workers, at least in the short-term. As in Drumglass, many people regarded it as a question of nibbling away at a large problem.
"Unemployment and loneliness are the biggest problems. Isolation is awful. I was encouraged yesterday when some old people got together at their own initiative. A lot of people bring it on themselves. There’s a lot of things on. The estate is full of depressed people yet we only get eight or nine people to our group." (ACE work Co-ordinator)
The biggest advantage the Churches have in both Drumglass and Rathcrone is that they are permanent presences. The people who work for ACE live on the estates. The congregations and parishes which support them are people on the estates. There is certainly distance between the clergy and the laity. None of the Rathcrone Ministers live directly on the estate. In Drnmglass the Parochial House and Convent stand set apart, as the largest houses on the estate. In both cases this may be a self-preservative distance or the desire of the congregations. Nevertheless, the permanence of minister and priest is considerably greater than that of Social Services or the officers of the Housing Executive. The "Social Service" they provide can be qualitatively different to that of statutory bodies. Nevertheless they are faced with different pressures - on the estates from Church structures and hierarchies and now from statutory agencies.
Middle-class Walkerstown has an entirely different atmosphere to both Drumglass and Rathcrone. None of the Churches employ under the A.C.E. scheme. The one exception is the Walkerstown Christian Fellowship which has a centre in Walkerstown House on the Clonderg estate.
"This would be a middle class parish with well over 90% employed, quite a lot with two incomes. The Protestants are poorer. Most of the Housing Executive houses in this area are occupied by Protestants." (Catholic Priest)
Because Old Walkerstown Parish takes in Rathcrone this gives a local exception to the stereotypical norm of Protestant rich, Catholic poor. The Church of Ireland Minister made a further distinction.
"Here the Presbyterians are the professional classes. We have more working People. The Presbyterian parish is much wealthier. Walkerstown parish has little unemployment. There are people on minimum retirement benefit but there’s not much unemployment." (Church of Ireland Rector)
Walkerstown has a high percentage of older people especially among the Protestants. There are a number of special meetings for older people run in the Churches. None of this work is State-funded. The exception to the rule is the work of the Christian Fellowship.
"We started up an A CE-scheme, and we employ 24 from it. We do home-care work. That’s alleviated a lot of the loneliness. I remember at the time of EEC Butter distribution I met Senior Citizens in Clonderg who turned their lights out because of fear of electricity bills." (Trust Co-ordinator)
The group do work in a number of areas based in a house in Clonderg estate which they use for a number of purposes. The work grew out of personal commitment.
"I’d always been involved in prison work gathering money. After I became a Christian. I had a real heart for the needy, and I continued visiting the prison in a Christian context. So there were a few conversions. We got a couple of houses for prisoners coming out of prison. Then we got this house, Walkerstown House. The Housing Executive were about to knock it down. Prisoners aren’t homeless until they leave prison. There’s nothing worse for people coming out of prison... This house belongs to the Housing Executive. At the moment open Door might buy it and invest £250,000 in it. We were called Walkerstown Christian Trust. Now we’re called LAOS. A lot of Churches would be very suspicious of us because they fear we go in for ‘shepherding’. We never had it here. There was a lot of pressure but we were always very much against it.... This building would be multi-purpose. Once the Housing Association (Open Door) invest their money we’ll have ten flats for homeless people. Its not necessarily young people. Within the next few years I see a big problem of homelessness. You’ll have more and more of this. We already get enquiries from Social Services and Probation. We also have two community flats for people who need a lot of support in Rathcrone. We run a play group in Walkerstown Primary School. We’d enough enquiries to run two. We have about £1 00,000 per year. Its an arm of the fellowship. For me this work has shown the loneliness and the problems there are in Walkerstown. I realised that is so easy just to got to Church and not to take notice. At a certain point I made a decision. Its about trying to get the balance of having fellowship with other Christians which knits people together and being involved with the community, getting alongside people. I feel in evangelism you have to have some credibility. I was reading a report recently which said that 80-90% of people who become Christians do so through friends who‘ve become Christians." (Trust Co-ordinator)
"In the end of the day it’s about helping people to know Christ. At the heart of our work would be the message of reconciliation a twofold reconciliation between God and man and within the community. The last thing I’d want it to be is just a Social Gospel. We’d see the object as being reaching people. We would pray for people. We have Bar-B-Q’s and at that we share the faith with them. At times we’d have gospel meetings and healing meetings." (Trust Member, man)
ACE-schemes in this area have an ambiguous impact. The money and the employment are clearly welcome. The fact that most of the workers live in the areas and are not employed because of professional qualifications means that the services do not duplicate social services. However the attachment of ACE schemes to Churches may have more to do with Government and Church institutional politics than with many members of congregations and parishes. The schemes are Church based for political reasons and the Church ‘ethos’ is a political guarantee rather than a Christian context. In Drumglass it results in a sense that the Church is the local establishment. The introduction of local management has clear advantages for the government and some advantages for the locals. For the Churches, however ACE raises a number of thorny problems. The Church runs the risk of becoming a passive part of government policy and more importantly the Churches may come to believe that their ACE work is the congregational contribution to local life. This it clearly is not.
Last Modified by Martin Melaugh :