Northern Ireland news

Pips suicide prevention charity offices attacked in north Belfast

Gail Bell
14 April, 2016 14:00

PIPS suicide prevention charity says it is open for business as usual despite a "frightening" attack on its north Belfast office on Wednesday evening.

Chief executive Brian Maguire said Antrim Road office staff had been helping family groups and individuals just before the building had seven windows smashed at around 8.30pm.

A total of 15 people, including one family group, clients and staff, were in the building at the time.

Police later arrested a man in his forties who was taken to hospital for treatment to a head injury.

"I got a call from staff who said it was a very frightening incident for all concerned," Mr Maguire said.

"It was distressing for everyone, but I would like to thank all those who rallied to help.

"Local building firm CJ Joinery helped get us boarded up for the night and another business, King Security - which donated an alarm following our break-in last August - is helping fit an electronic mechanism to the gate today.

"The generosity of volunteers has also been brilliant and it was great that so many people, including a local primary school teacher and a joiner from the area, just came by to see what they could do.

"It is bad enough when something like this happens when the building is closed, but when it is open and being used by people already in distress, it is even worse."

Mr Maguire said the attack happened at a time when the charity has seen a surge in its workload - last month 397 counselling sessions took place, while staff dealt with 168 phone calls from people in crisis and undertook a further 100 befriending hours.

"It just shows the need for a facility like this," Mr Maguire added. "We are open seven days a week with three late nights - there is a growing need in the community and yet we don't get any funding.

"Windows are quite costly to replace so paying out around £1,000 to replace them will add further strain to our stretched budget."

The latest incident comes after a raid on the property in August last year when two laptops were stolen, several windows broken and offices and counselling rooms turned "upside down".

At that time, donations flowed in from big-hearted members of the public.

The PSNI confirmed it was investigating the latest attack.

14 April, 2016 14:00 Northern Ireland news

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