Andersonstown Road, 2007
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Andersonstown is a suburb in west Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is located at the foot of the Black Mountain and Divis Mountain and contains a mixture of public and private housing. It is largely a working class area populated by Irish nationalists/Irish Catholics. The district is sometimes colloquially referred to as "Andytown."
The area is located in County Antrim. Historically it is part of the Barony of Belfast Upper, the parish of Shankill and the townland of Ballydownfine (from Irish Baile Dúin Finn, meaning 'townland of the fort of Finn'). The area was also known as Whitesidetown after the family that owned the land but they were dispossessed for the support they gave to the Society of United Irishmen, resulting in a change of name.
Previously a rural farming area it rapidly developed during the 1950s and 1960s as the local housing authority built hundreds of houses for people who were rehoused during the redevelopment of the lower Falls Road. As the population of the area increased Twinbrook and Poleglass housing estates were built further out of Belfast. Today it is a term used to describe the area bounded by the Andersonstown Road on the south, the Glen Road on the north and the Shaw's Road on the west.
The Black Mountain district electoral area consists of six electoral wards: Shaw's Road, Andersonstown, Colin Glen, Turf Lodge, Falls Park and Beechmount. The electoral ward named Andersonstown and that named Shaw's Road covers the area of Andersonstown.
According to the 2008 estimate the Andersonstown ward has a population of 5,064.
The Upper Andersonstown Road is lined with a large number of shops and restaurants.
There are several schools including Holy Child School and La Salle Secondary School. St Mary's Grammar School is located on the upper Glen Road and its grounds backs onto the lower slopes of the Black Mountain.
Donegal Celtic F.C., an association football club, play their home games at Donegal Celtic Park on Suffolk Road on the outskirts of Andersontown. In 1990 an Irish Cup game between Donegal Celtic and Linfield F.C., a club with a mainly Protestant following, was moved away from the area on the orders of police due to fears that violence would break out. The game was played at Windsor Park but despite the move a riot broke out anyway.
On the Glen Road, the path that leads into the mountains known as Glen Road Heights is home to both Sport & Leisure Swifts F.C. and St. Teresa's GAC, with the two clubs grounds being almost adjacent to one another.
Culture and media
The local newspaper named Andersonstown News voices an Irish Republican viewpoint. Produced by the Belfast Media Group, which also publishes papers in other areas of the city, editions appear on Mondays and Thursdays.
The district is also the subject of the novel Titanic Town by Mary Costello and the movie adaptation by Anne Devlin.
The area is part of the Black Mountain district electoral area for Belfast City Council. In the Belfast City Council election, 2014 this district elected five Sinn Fein, one SDLP and one PBP councillors.
During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s the area was a major centre of civil disturbances during the social-political conflict known as The Troubles. During this period a large British army fort – known as Silver City was built in the central Broom Hill part of Andersonstown. However there was generally less strife than in, for instance, neighbouring districts such as Lenadoon, which in 1972 saw clashes between the IRA and Ulster Defence Association and a subsequent demographic shift in the estate from Protestant to Catholic, and Ballymurphy, the scene of the Ballymurphy massacre and Springhill massacre.
On 5 April 1979 two British Army soldiers were shot dead by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) whilst closing security gates at Andersonstown joint Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army base. The PIRA in Andersonstown was part of the First Battalion of the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade.
On 26 June 1980 Miriam Daly, a lecturer at Queens University Belfast and an Irish Republican Socialist Party activist, was found tied up and shot dead at her home in the area. Widely blamed on loyalist paramilitaries, no group ever claimed responsibility for the murder.
Andersonstown is the main area beyond the Falls Road although it is bordered by several other areas that form the Upper Falls District Electoral Area. On the south side of the Andersonstown Road the main district is Ladybrook, which is approximately bordered by Finaghy Road North (which leads to the Finaghy area and the Upper Lisburn Road) and the M1 motorway. Ladybrook is adjacent to the Blacks Road area which is the only predominantly loyalist section of what is otherwise a mostly republican locality. The area, also known as Suffolk, the name of the townland, is home to around 800 Protestants and is represented by the Suffolk Community Forum, a group which since 1996 has co-operated in the Suffolk Lenadoon Interface Group with its Catholic neighbours. The close proximity of Suffolk to neighbouring republican areas has led to the development of an interface area at the junction with the Stewartstown Road (which the Andersonstown Road merges at the junction with Shaw's Road). The interface, which is close to the fortified Woodbourne Police Service of Northern Ireland barracks, has seen numerous clashes between youths from the areas.
The barracks are on the site of the former Woodbourne House Hotel, which was destroyed in the earliest days of the Troubles.
To the north of the Stewartstown Road is the Lenadoon area, which is bordered by Shaw's Road. Lenadoon includes an eponymous public park which was redesigned in 2000. Lenadoon was previously a mixed area and indeed in the early stages of the Troubles the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was active in the area but following the street violence of the early 1970s and the subsequent alleged sectarian ethnic cleansing by the IRA the Protestants moved out and the area became almost wholly Catholic. The Suffolk Road area lies further west and is home to Donegal Celtic. Suffolk includes Blacks Road and as a result is a source of conflict between rival gangs of youths.
The area around Suffolk Road was previously considered part of the Protestant Suffolk area (and a Church of Ireland church stands on the corner of the Stewartstown Road here) with Lenadoon Avenue forming an interface. In 1972 this street was the scene of violence that brought an end to a short-lived Provisional IRA ceasefire. Several houses were left empty in the street until the IRA accompanied a Catholic family into one after the family's move had been approved by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. This attracted a crowd of UDA members and supporters who attacked the houses and before long the British Army arrived on the scene. A stand-off followed for several days until the IRA decided to accompany another removal lorry with another Catholic family into the street but at the last moment the army, fearing a riot, rammed the vehicle with an armoured car. The republican supporters erupted in an angry display, resulting in the soldiers firing rubber bullets, CS gas and water cannons. The Provisionals accused the army and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland WIlliam Whitelaw of going back on earlier negotiations and favouring the loyalists. By the evening of the event the IRA announced an end to its ceasefire as a direct response to events at Lenadoon and a gun battle with the army and UDA ensued.
The Glengoland area, which borders on Colin Glen Forest Park between the Stewartstown Road and the Glen Road, represented the western edge of the Belfast City Council area. After the Suffolk Road junction Stewartstown Road entered the jurisdiction of Lisburn City Council, heading towards Poleglass and the surrounding areas. However following the reform of local government in Northern Ireland that preceded the 2014 local elections these areas were absorbed into an expanded Belfast City Council.
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- St. Theresa's Church
- St Matthias' Church
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- Casement Park
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- Loyalist attack
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- Local government reform