by Sheenagh McNally, Orla McCann and Siobhan O'Neill
Bernie Burns was recognised this past Wednesday (25 April) for her lifetime of service to her community and her contribution and commitment to the development of the Brownlow area. Many of us at Supporting Communities have had the privilege of working alongside Bernie at Drumellan Family Learning Centre where she has been a dedicated community worker for many years.
Bernie is an incredible woman, a true ‘force of nature’, with a reputation for getting things done. She will be missed by all who had the pleasure of working with her.
Bernie has always had a tremendous amount of community spirit and has always kept the needs of communities at the heart of everything she does. She has worked tirelessly to improve the living conditions for all residents in her area and has dedicated a major part of her life to being a respected voice in her community. One of the most humble people you could meet, Bernie has a fierce determination and a highly charged sense of social justice driving her. Her long service to the Drumellan area is clearly evident in the success of the estate today.
Her journey into community development began shortly after she and her late husband moved to Edenbeg (now Drumellan) in the late 1970s to begin their married life. It quickly became apparent that spiralling heating costs were having a detrimental effect on the community and action was urgently needed. Bernie got involved in a residents group that was set up as a lobbying forum to address the problems with the district heating systems. It was a steep learning curve for all concerned as it was an era when the tenants' voice wasn't really considered. Despite many knockbacks, the community successfully negotiated a change in the heating system that was to make a huge difference.
Bernie went on to become a stalwart member of the community group and even when things were extremely difficult in the 1990s, Bernie's determination to improve the living conditions and environment never waned. Edenbeg was subjected to a prolonged period of serious antisocial behaviour that led to mass dereliction and frequent arson attacks. The estate looked more like a war zone than a community, with row after row of boarded-up properties. Putting your head above the parapet at the time was a dangerous occupation, but this only strengthened Bernie's resolve to continue.
During this time, Bernie and her committee commanded respect from the statutory bodies with whom she worked to jointly develop an Estate Based Strategy. As a result, about 160 burnt out homes were demolished, improvement schemes were introduced, and the estate was renamed beginning the complete turnaround for the area. Today, Drumellan is a lovely, stable estate with few turnovers and a healthy waiting list.
Bernie and her committee's contributions to the Estate Based Strategy highlighted the need not only to improve the physical environment but equally the need to provide much-needed services for the community. In other words, more than just bricks and mortar!
From all of us at Supporting Communities, we congratulate Bernie on her many achievements over the years and wish her a well deserved and very happy retirement!