Northern Ireland

Warnings as needles found outside youth centre in west Belfast

Northern Ireland figures show increasing numbers of visits to needle and syringe exchange schemes
A youth centre in west Belfast has warned that children have discovered needles and drugs outside.

CHILDREN in west Belfast are being put at risk after needles and suspected drugs were found near a youth cetnre.

There has been reported that the incident took place outside the St Peter’s Immaculata Youth Centre, beside St Peter’s Cathedral in the lower Falls area.

Youth worker Stephen Hughes said there were “major problems” with drugs users on the grounds of the cathedral, and children had picked up items including diazepam and pregabalin tablets.

“We have seen a significant increase in the last 10 days where we are collecting more and more drug paraphernalia,” he told BBC NI.

“Our biggest concern is probably used needles, but in the last few days we have lifted cocaine, there is cocaine on the ground here beside me, we have blood spills, we have lifted drugs, handed over to the police.

“One was a strip of Pregabalin, and these are being left in what is the children’s play area, so it is putting the children from the community here at risk.”

He added: “It is strangers, they aren’t from the community, they are people who are coming in to use the grounds.

“The protection of our children is what concerns us most.”

The youth centre is continuing to host sessions with children and young people on the dangers of lifting used needles and drug material.

He continued: “There’s cocaine lying on the ground, any child lifts that up, picks any of these things up and puts them in their mouths or whatever, we could be talking about a fatality.

“It’s seriously concerning.”