A SPOKESMAN for the largest church in Ballysally has hit out at the ‘The Estate’, describing it as a “betrayal” of the positive community image which they have worked so hard to create over decades.
Speaking to The Times after an appearance on BBC Ulster, Youth and Community Worker, Jonny Doey, said Ballysally Presbyterian Church had refused to take part in the TV programme after producers rejected their request for a final say over how they would be portrayed.
“My heart and soul is for the people of Ballysally and it pains me to see their betrayal in the first two programmes,” he said.
Along with Ballysally minister, the Rev John Coulter, the youth leader had asked the programme makers “what their agenda was”. But the evasive answer that it would “depend on the programme’s editors” did not cut any ice.
“We chose not to participate after that because they didn’t do enough for us to be able to trust them,” he said.
“As it turned out we were right. It did not portray Ballysally in the right light,” said Mr. Doey. “It doesn’t show the good and doesn’t look at the positive and the emphasis that people here put on friendship and community.”
Having lived and worked in Ballysally for nearly thirty years, Jonny is immensely proud of the estate and feels he is better placed to know the real Ballysally.
“Ballysally has been transformed in the last 10-15 years and that hasn’t been shown on The Estate so far,” he commented.
“It is a place I am immensely proud of. I grew up and was reared here and now here I am working full-time on the ground in the middle of the community. I am not embarrassed at all about coming from here.”
Ballysally Presbyterian Church is one of three churches on The Estate and is at the heart of Ballysally’s friendly, close-knit community.
The church has created numerous social programmes over the years and currently leads the way in youth inclusion projects and male and female welfare schemes. Together with Ballysally Primary School, which we featured in last week’s paper, the church currently holds a number of programmes for school children and adults including a community funded hamper exchange, primary school evenings, teenage youth club, advice classes, separate men’s and ladies’ fellowship meetings as well as ongoing help and advice on everything from depression to healthy eating.
The ultimate display of community is the annual Easter ‘Street Reach’ programme which involves residents serving each other with acts of kindness: lifting litter, cleaning windows, painting fences and gardening. A warm and very successful project which Jonny and the entire church is rightly proud of.
“The emphasis is on families caring for families and serving the community and we are really proud of the way it has created a real community bond and given Ballysally a sense of identity,” he said.
Although keen to promote the mainly positive aspects of Ballysally, Jonny and the church are not blind to issues on the estate such as alcohol abuse and deprivation.
“We don’t deny the problems that the people here face but there is a lot of work going on towards prevention and cure for all of those,” he said.
“As a church we are aware of the issues - we deal with them on a daily basis. But because our work is so tied to our identity you can’t help but feel a little bit annoyed because of the comments and the cultural snobbery.
“But at the end of the day, we are far from embarrassed. I feel very proud and privileged to be a part of the community here. I benefit from knowing the people of Ballysally rather than them benefiting from us,” he added.
INTERVIEW; JEFF WHYTE
PHOTO: MARK JAMIESON