He hasn’t gone away you know

He might be stepping down as a North Belfast councillor, but he hasn’t gone away, you know!
For man of social passion Gerard Brophy who is resigning his council seat due to ill health, has vowed to continue fighting for housing for nationalists on the St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee, which he help to set up.
“This is the group that is going to push the Housing Executive to the wall,” he says defiantly.
“They have asked me to stay on in an advisory capacity. There’s unfinished business,” he growls.
Tributes from fellow councillors poured in for Cllr Brophy last week after he announced his resignation to the council.
He is on a hospital waiting list for a back operation, but said he would be delighted to return to the fray when he recovered from essential surgery.
And the North Belfast News looked back with fondness at the unconventional councillor’s illustrious career and as these pictures show a great sport and a cheeky article!
Cllr Brophy reflected on his six years of hard graft as an elected representative for Sinn Féin; years in which famously stood up to the RUC who unsuccessfully brought him to court, chucked out plans for a controversial hostel in Carrickhill and helped turn around the hell of the New Lodge tower blocks.
Gerard Brophy was also a leading light in trying to resolve tensions along North Queen Street interface, as was himself injured in the violence.
The 47-year-old father of two said he was “heartbroken” he had to step down and paid tribute to the people of North Belfast.
“The people have been superb. I haven’t always got them what they needed but there has never been a bad word to me.”
And what did he look back to as his best achievements in his tenure as councillor?
“The first thing I did with Joe Kelly was help set up the first housing office in the New Lodge. We had never had anything like that before. I have had good contact with the staff in the Housing Executive in district four and have built up a good working relationship with every member of it,” he said.
But in reference to his tireless work in dragging the Housing Executive through the coals on its North Belfast strategy Cllr Brophy was less complimentary.
“Though that’s not to say the Housing Executive itself is high on my list of favourite things,” he quips.
“I’m please I was involved in the setting up of the St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee and one of the first things we did was campaign for a concierge system in New Lodge flats. We then campaigned for the British army to be removed from Maeve House and we got them out. We set up residents’ groups and worked hard to get the Reccy at Victoria Barracks refurbished and we were out and about every day of the week dealing with housing complaints. Of course another great thing was the reopening of the Memorial Garden in the New Lodge for victims of the conflict.”
An emotional Gerard Brophy said it was with deep regret he was stepping down, but vowed he would still be out and about and involved in trying to relieve the chronic shortage of housing in North Belfast.
“It’s been a hard and heartbreaking decision. I’m only hoping when my back operation is over I can, if the people will have me, kick back in in a couple of years time.”
He thanked the North Belfast News for its support over the past five years.
“The North Belfast News took on stories that no other paper had the courage to touch. That has been very influential and it is a credit to the paper that we got those issues out there and challenged bodies like the Housing Executive.
“We have also exposed together RUC and PSNI brutality against nationalist families on the interfaces. I have had to witness terrible scenes of families being forced out of their homes and these have been heartbreaking. I have seen it all and my heart always went out to these people.”
But Cllr Brophy in his indomitable style said though he had helped much, he was disappointed about the work which needed to be done with the youth of North Belfast.
“There is a serious problem with young people and the lack of youth training and qualifications. There are particular problems with kids coming out of schools with a lack of qualifications.
“I would love to have had a rehabilitation centre set up for drink and drugs misuse in North Belfast because I think there is a big, big problem with teenagers and adults’ increasing dependence on drink. I think it is a big problem in North Belfast and a lot of agencies and people are burying their heads in the sand. We had drug and drink studies set up with terrible reports, but nothing has ever been done about it. Personally speaking the North Belfast Partnership Board is also a disappointment. I sat on it for three years, but it has failed to make any impact on North Belfast and has been very, very quiet. I don’t think if you asked anyone in North Belfast what it was, that any of them would know.”
And what was the most amusing time he had on the benches of Belfast City Council?
“The funniest thing has always been the DUP. I have to laugh when I hear them on TV screaming about this and that and the other. When there are no cameras they talk away to you. One of my proudest moments was to see Alex Maskey mayor of Belfast and I was also proud of Marie Moore. But most of all I am privileged to be involved with the people of this community. Sinn Féin topped the poll in the Oldpark ward and it is the people’s support that has been the most humbling. Thanks to everybody.”

Journalist: Staff Reporter

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