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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Demolition of poet's home condemned
Protestors failed to stop the demolition work
The demolition of poet Seamus Heaney's former home in south Belfast has been criticised by Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt.

Campaigners had been trying to get the house listed, and attempted to stop contractors knocking down the property off the Lisburn Road on Wednesday.


From an architectural point of view, from an historical point of view, this building needed a second look

Dermot Nesbitt Environment minister

The County Londonderry poet lived at the house on Ashley Avenue while he taught at Queen's University between 1967 and 1973.

At one stage protestors tried but failed to stop the demolition work.

Seamus Heaney said he was saddened to see the TV news pictures of the wreckage of his former home.

He said he was moved by the efforts of so many people to halt the destruction of the building and that the blows to the fabric of the house "were like blows to our memory".

Secretary of State John Reid said he was dismayed by the move.

"Like everyone else, I believe if we have symbols of our culture and our history which mean so much to so many people they should be preserved wherever possible," he said.

Mr Nesbitt said the work should have been put on hold.

"I say shame on the developer because there are people who have a concern for conservation," he said.

"I have a concern for conservation and I have to live within the law as it presently is.

NI Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt
Dermot Nesbitt: "Shame on the developers"
"I wish to create space because from an architectural point of view, from an historical point of view, this building needed a second look.

"The developer was informed, he knew what we were doing but he seemingly has gone ahead in a cavalier way."

However, the developers said they conducted themselves in a "responsible and reasonable way".

In a statement issued on Thursday, Convis Ltd said campaigners and government had sufficient time and space to have the poet's former home listed.

"We will be very happy to work with the relevant government department at any time in the future to find a way of marking the significance of the site," said the company.

Demolition workers arrived with a crane at the Nobel Laureate's former home on Wednesday as campaigners continued their efforts to save it.

The workmen began stripping slates off the roof as neighbours watched in dismay.

Crane keys grab

At one stage, the Holywood-based artist Nicola Russell climbed onto the crane in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the demolition.

She tried to grab the keys of the vehicle, but was stopped by the crane driver.

The demolition work stopped briefly after police arrived at the scene, but it continued a short time later.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Nesbitt asked his officials to arrange a survey of the building with the developer.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society has been leading the campaign to have the building listed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt:
"From an historical point of view, this house needed a second look"
BBC NI's Julia Paul:
"Local people had campaigned for two years to have the house preserved"
F.J. O'Boyle, Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust
"The blame rests with the Department of the Environment"
See also:

25 Jan 00 | N Ireland
16 Sep 00 | N Ireland
08 Nov 01 | UK Education
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