Children protest following closure of their Irish medium youth club
CHILDREN who attend a popular Irish medium youth club in west Belfast staged a protest last night after their building was forced to close due to flooding.
Carrigart Youth Centre in Lenadoon, which is used by more than 100 school children between the ages of eight and 17, was shut last week with no alternative facilities initially offered by the Education Authority (EA).
The club has been operating three nights a week since it was set up in 2012 for children educated through the Irish language.
It has become the focus of a campaign in recent days by its young members and management who say they "depend on the service" and are demanding that the EA renovate and refurbish the damaged building.
EA chiefs yesterday responded by releasing a statement in which they said the Lenadoon facility had been "temporarily closed due to extensive flooding".
"We have made alternative arrangements for the youth groups affected to use St Michael’s Youth Club at Finaghy Road North," it added.
Meetings between Carrigart youth leaders and the EA are to take place in coming days.
Chief youth leader Gerard McGuinness, who has worked at the club since its inception, said "our young people have nowhere else to go".
"They depend on and love our service and it's the only Irish medium youth service in the entire Lenadoon and Greater Andersonstown area. This denies them their right to informal educational opportunities through Irish and in effect, puts 100 young people out on the street," he said.
Teenager Caoimhe Glenholmes has been attending the youth club since she was nine-years-old and said it had "transformed" young lives.
"We will fight this tooth and nail and are determined to get our building reopened and our youth service back. Our young people deserve it," the 17-year-old said.
In addition to its group work with children and young people, the club also provides one-on-one peer mentoring support for those most in need.