Lisburn appears to be held in contempt by many of its own residents, going by online outbursts, but at least one prominent defender believes it will “rise from the ashes”.
Potentially helping give the city its lift, we’re told, will be a looming end to public realm scheme works, serious interest from a number of major retailers and not one, but two, new hotels.
For some time now Lisburn has been coming under attack on social media, where its perceived shortcomings are lamented at length, disgruntled locals latching onto a lack of nightlife, empty shops and the dragging disruption of public realm works.
When the Ulster Star recently asked the public to suggest slogans for a T-shirt celebrating Lisburn the vast majority of respondents slated the city.
Some few leapt to its defence. ‘Lisburn needs your support, not your criticism’ said Debbie Abraham. ‘. . . Love your city or gladly move on and whinge elsewhere,” offered Wayne Brownlee, while ex-pat Sabel Gardner declared ‘. . . Beautiful Lisburn. Be proud of your great city’.
Most of the rest were scathing.
‘It burned once, hopefully it’ll burn again,’ said Christopher Madden, while Jason Hewitt dubbed it ‘A Pointless city!’ and Gretta Gibson Brown didn’t even want anyone to know she was from Lisburn, she said. ‘A dump for everyone’ said Neil Gibson. ‘Like empty shops and roadworks? Come to Lisburn!’ offered Anthony Kal Henderson, while Andy Larmour’s verdict was: ‘Lisburn, a city for everyone that doesn’t like shopping and clubbing,’
And so it went on.
But for longstanding Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson - who waded in this week in an effort to stem the tide of criticism - there is much to be positive about in Lisburn’s future.
“Whilst I understand fully,” he said, “the frustrations that many people feel about the public realm scheme that has taken so long to complete and about the impact the recession has had on the city centre retail sector, nevertheless there are many positive indicators that we have turned a corner and that Lisburn is on the way back.
“A number of new businesses have opened recently in the city centre and I know there have been further enquiries from some major brands looking to come into Lisburn, or indeed to come back to Lisburn.”
Finishing the public-realm scheme was critical, he said, to creating a more successful city and, having spoken to the council, he held out the prospect of completion within the next few weeks.
He said too he had spoken last week with one of the UK’s leading hotel developers and they were looking at two for Lisburn, one a city centre “boutique style” hotel to complement the public realm works and another a west Lisburn hotel to provide accommodation for visitors attending local events.
“Twice in its history,” added Mr Donaldson, “Lisburn has been virtually burned to the ground and yet it has been rebuilt.
“I believe that as our city motto (Ex Igne Resurgam- ‘I will arise out of the fire) says we will once again rise from the ashes of a global recession and rebuild a city everyone can be proud of.”