A recovering alcoholic artist friend of mine took to painting bird cages and high walls.
I had a good idea what was prompting this development but decided to probe a little more – “I suppose everything with me is psychological” he explained.
Of his wall paintings he explained “there are walls in this house. There are walls all around the fields where I live here. We are surrounded by mountains etc. These are physical walls and then there are the walls in our heads, walls we cannot climb over… as alcoholics, addicts etc.”
That conversation has lingered with me and it was re-kindled this week with the announcement of the names of the members of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation.
As we all know that site, because of its historical use over the last three decades, has proven controversial with Unionists contending that part of it would end up ‘an IRA shrine.’
There was a strong body of opinion that one major strike for the new Northern Ireland political dispensation, would be ‘a centre for excellence’ in sport, embracing all sports on the Maze site. The dream was that Gaelic, Rugby and Soccer would all be played on that ground.
Millions of pounds were washed down the drain in fees working up a business plan. We heard, unsubstantiated reports that a relative of US businessman Ross Perot was one of the interested parties willing to become involved in the development of the Maze and the building of the multi-purpose stadium.
DUP politics killed the Maze stadium plan.
Flowing from this the Northern Ireland Executive has chosen to refurbish and expand the three existing stadia, at Ravenhill, Windsor Park and at Casement Park.
There was an argument for a multi purpose stadium of necessity being built in and around Belfast city centre. There was a validity attaching to that contention.
What did we get? We ended up getting another three new walls in Belfast – physical walls – at Ravenhill, Windsor and Casement.
These are walls destined to obtain possibly for another century.
These euphemistic walls, are more impacting than the decision-makers realise or seem to care.
Those decision-makers have possibly irrevocably blocked a coming together of all who want to play sport on the one ground and in the one venue.
Those decision-makers have compounded division and separateness in the very one area where barriers and difference can be diminished.
A common sports ground could have proven a major confluence point for young people, where they could have met socially, availed of appropriate physical treatment and interacted on and off the field.
Those who slammed the gate on that multi-purpose stadium ought to feel ashamed because like those symbolic walls painted by my recovering alcoholic artist friend they have erected three more Belfast walls which will keep young people apart probably for another century.