Green Party rep Mal O’Hara condemns unrest in North and West Belfast

Wednesday March 28 2018

Green Party rep Mal O’Hara has condemned the weekend violence that broke out in the north and west of Belfast.

Police were attacked, property damaged and a 14-year-old boy badly beaten in the anti-social outbreaks on Saturday night.

“This behaviour is disappointing and has shocked people in North and West Belfast,” the North Belfast rep said.

“There is a very real danger of this kind of unrest escalating over the months ahead and I will be working as hard as I can to engage with communities, organisations and police to assist with calming the situation.

“This is the ongoing result of unaddressed legacy and sectarianism within our communities. It is exacerbated by poverty, deprivation and lack of opportunities for young people and despite twenty years of progress after the Good Friday Agreement, many of these communities still face the same structural challenges as they did in 1998.

“These are some of the most marginalised young people and we must build their stake in our society if we are to stop this type of activity from continuing.”

Expressing his support for local community and youth projects working at the coalface, Mal said; “There are outreach funded projects engaging with young people on the ground. We need to support these projects and ensure that these types of interventions are sustainable, strategic and appropriately resourced.

“They are doing fantastic work in a tough environment, yet the good work they do with young people rarely makes the headlines. These organisations have the governance, professional training and capability to properly engage with the disaffected young people involved in these incidents. The behaviour at the weekend is not indicative of the majority of young people.”

Mal O’Hara, who has managed a range of youth and community projects in over a decade’s experience in the sector, went on to say; “I would likewise urge anyone with influence within the community to do everything in their power to prevent any more of this lawless behaviour from breaking out and engage through the proper channels.

“I would appeal to parents to make sure they know where their children are and what they are doing. I would urge people in the community to provide whatever information they can to police or if they are not comfortable then to local youth providers in order to head off these situations before they gather momentum.

“I would appeal to the young people involved to come forward and engage with youth services to express their frustration proactively, rather than risking criminal records.”