Construction has started on the new Shankill Shared Women’s Centre to coincide with International Women’s Day 2022.
The €6.5 million EU-funded centre for women and their families near Lanark Way will be the new home for Shankill Women’s Centre. It will be shared with Clonard Women’s Group, enabling a broad range of services to be delivered jointly to women and families from both communities.
Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl, said: “This will be an incredible new asset for the local community when it opens. It will provide education, training, health awareness, childcare and a range of other activities for women and their families in a welcoming, safe and comfortable environment.
“Almost two years to the day after officially announcing details of the project, it is great to see work now getting underway. It is also extremely fitting that it coincides with International Women’s Day. As well as acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of this area, the new shared facilities will bring communities together so that they can build a positive future together. I wish them every success in the future.”
Betty Carlisle MBE, Manager of the Shankill Women’s Centre, said: “After many long years of hard work, I’m delighted that this day has finally arrived! I am both excited and slightly nervous that this new build has at last become a reality.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be going forward with this new venture for Shankill Women’s Centre. I’d like to thank all my staff for their support and especially Lesley- Anne Kinnon who has been my sidekick and my rock throughout this process. This project will enable us to expand and create new services for all women in Belfast and beyond!”
Veronica Brown from Clonard Women’s Group said: “We are really excited that the building work is starting on the shared women’s centre. We have lots of plans for using the centre and the finish date can’t come quick enough.”
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “Having outgrown their current premises this state-of-the-art centre will provide a new shared space to generate increased opportunities for ‘meaningful, purposeful and sustained’ contact between women, children and young people from Shankill, Clonard and beyond.
“My Department has made a significant contribution to this project both in terms of providing the match funding and by transferring ownership of the land for the new building to the project promoters. I am delighted that such positive use is being made of the site at what has historically been an interface area. The investment will not only see the creation of a unique shared space developed on a cross community basis but also the transformation of a derelict site. I am looking forward to seeing the project when it is complete.”
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, commented: “I am delighted to see that construction has started on the Shankill Women’s Centre project. I look forward to seeing the transformation of this site into the first regional shared space for women and their families. We all know that communities that come together and participate in education, health and wellbeing and youth development programmes develop strong social bonds and build relationships that lead to happier, safer and stronger communities. This project will facilitate ‘meaningful, purposeful and sustained’ contact between women, children and young people that are currently living in a polarised and disadvantaged interface area.
“I want to congratulate Belfast City Council and their partners Shankill Women’s Centre; Clonard Neighbourhood Development Partnership incorporating Clonard Women’s Group, for all their hard work and dedication in bringing the project to this point, it is a credit to all involved. My Department is looking forward to working with all parties to ensure the successful delivery of this crucial project.”
Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), said: “This area of Belfast has suffered greatly through the years, and has remained very segregated, with limited opportunity for communities to meet and learn from each other. This fabulous project is one of a number of shared space initiatives, that are being funded through the EU’s PEACE IV Programme across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, each designed to encourage greater levels of cross-community contact to help create a more inclusive society, accepting of all cultures, traditions and backgrounds.
“This new amazing facility is designed to be used by women and their families, and provides an opportunity to further develop the relationships built from many years of hard work undertaken by the Shankill Women’s Centre over the last 30 years alongside their partners across this interface area. I am truly delighted that this work has started, it has taken many long years to get to this stage, and I very much look forward to returning to see the facility when it is completed.”
The Belfast City Council-led project is being funded through the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) with match-funding provided by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
For more information on Belfast’s PEACE IV shared spaces capital projects, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/sharedspaces