On Tuesday evening I left what was a very busy day of work in the Sinn Féin Press Office to make my way down to the Mount Conference Centre at Woodstock Link.
As I ventured across the road I saw a group of teenagers from the Strand head in ahead of me; they greeted me in typical Béal Feirste fashion; “There’s Niall!”, “Hiya Niall!”, “Alright Niall?!”.
These same young people were some of a group from both the Short Strand and Inner East Belfast who have been working with the Inner East Belfast Antisocial Behaviour/Young People Interface Project. (Long title but important work nonetheless!)
The project began after a meeting of key stakeholders in East Belfast 18 months ago in the East Belfast Mission; I attended that meeting, which focused on collectively dealing with the problems of antisocial activity at the interfaces, youth provision and community safety, but also about approaching all of this in a joint up, cohesive and comprehensive fashion. Tuesday night showed the beginning of this work and why it must continue in the time ahead.
Tuesday also saw launch of the Project’s “R U Brickin’ it?” campaign as well as the launch of a DVD showing the views of all those caught up in the antisocial activity at the interface; the victims, the young people, their parents, youth/community workers and the PSNI.
The DVD in my opinion did a good job at getting some of the views across and it would be excellent if it was made more widely available. The whole purpose of the “Brickin’ it” campaign is to highlight the very real and often times dangerous consequences of engaging in this type of activity, particularly at the interfaces.
Its important to note that the room in the Mount was filled to capacity with people having to line up outside in the hall to listen to contributions from speakers from the Short Strand Community Forum, the CROWN Project, the Doyle Youth Club, the Bridge, Alternatives and the Project itself. Many politicians, from the UUP, PUP and Alliance were also in attendance, as were community reps, members of the community, but most importantly in my opinion, was the fact that so many young people, some of whom have been caught up in the problems, were there on the night. The work of the Belfast Conflict Resolution Consortium (www.bcrc.eu) as well as the East Belfast Area Contacts cannot also not be diminished, the seeds of this project were planted by the work which they were determined to begin in order to tackle the problems we were having to deal with (sometimes on a nightly basis!) at the interface.
I wish the project every success and I look forward to assisting their endeavours in the time ahead; I think we all have a key stake in it’s work given its importance to our community.