Show doesn’t paint us in the best light

The Estate, has really affected community cohesion, pitting neighbour against neighbour and creating unnecessary tension, according to a leading community worker in Ballysally.

Adrian Eakin, who has lived and worked on the estate for nearly 40 years made the comments this week after viewing episode one of the eight-part fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The treasurer of Building Ballysally Together and chairman of Ballysally Cultural and Heritage Group said he was equally divided over the treatment of the estate on the small screen but advised residents to set aside their differing views and turn the publicity to their advantage.

Mr. Eakin claims the landmark derelict buildings featured on the show were receiving attention from their owners SHAC for the first time since they were abandoned 20 years ago.

“Looking at the trailer, a lot of people on the estate didn’t think the programme did the area justice but how it pans out in the long term is anyone’s guess. It’s early days and people are being very judgmental when we have only seen part one of an eight part series,” he said.

“It might not have painted us in the best light but let’s turn it to our advantage because we can say to those in the political elite - ‘look what you’ve done to this place’ and ‘what are you going to do about it?’ Perhaps issues like the SHAC houses will start to move a lot quicker.

“I have been assured that a plan is already in place to bring those 25 derelict houses back into habitable use and to do them up,” he added.

The Louganhill Park resident, who is also a doorman at the Lodge Hotel, Coleraine, revealed how the show’s makers had filmed him over a period of eight days; coaching youth football and taking residents on a bus trip to the Battle of the Boyne Heritage Centre in County Meath. They also filmed him at the “Twelfth Festival” held on July 11th at Ballysally.

“They told me that the football coaching and the Cultural Heritage trip have both been cut from the show so, my only appearance will be at the festival... I hope! Maybe they’ve cut that too, I’ll just have to wait and see.

“But this is what worries me - are they getting the balance right? The residents in Ballysally are real people with real problems, that’s why I choose to work with so many of them and have done for years.

“In the end all I can say is I am withholding judgement until I see, in future episodes, if the positive things come through as well.” The number of single parent households with dependent children in Ballysally is more than twice the national average.

BALLYSALLY: THE FACTS

* 20.5% of working-age residents in Ballysally are registered disabled and unfit for work.

* Crime levels on the estate are no different to those across the Borough of Coleraine as a whole.

* Education qualification levels among Ballysally’s 3,000 residents are poor with 53.9% of residents holding no qualifications compared to 39.9% in the rest of the Coleraine area.

* Unemployment is rife in the Ballysally Estate and is currently more than double Northern Ireland’s national rate.

* Ballysally has 8% fewer OAPs aged 60 and over than other estates in the Borough of Coleraine.