Northern Ireland news

Community, youth and political leaders providing 'leadership on the ground'

SDLP representative Paul Doherty at the scene of street violence near the Lanark Way interface on the Springfield Road in west Belfast
Marie Louise McConville

Political representatives, youth workers and community activists have been praised for their strong presence on the Springfield Road in west Belfast this week in a bid to help resolve the ongoing interface violence.

On the nationalist side of the peace wall, Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey and SDLP representative Paul Doherty engaged with those on the ground in a bid to end the violence.

Working alongside them have been local community representatives, including Sean Murray, a senior republican who is also chairman of Clonard Residents Association, and outreach workers from St Peter's Immaculata Youth Centre, as well as other youth service providers.

Community workers remove a barricade which had been erected by rioters across the Springfield Road in west Belfast

OnThursday community representatives were pictured removing a barricade which had been set up by rioters across the Springfield Road.

Mr Doherty said he had spoken to youths on both sides of the Lanark Way peace wall on Thursday before trouble later erupted. He said children as young as eight and nine have been involved.

"It was engaging with them and trying to talk to them," he said.

"They don't understand what it is about. They were waiting for something to happen and gathering.

"Myself and the other political and community representatives started creating a barrier at that interface (on the Springfield Road) to basically stop them from throwing stuff over the gates.

"When they seen we had put a barrier up, right away they focused their attention on the police further up the road."

He added: "Where we really need leadership is on the ground and that is where it has been.

"We will keep appealing for calm and we will continue to work together to try and resolve this".

Clonard Residents Association said it also had members on the ground "attempting to prevent sectarian conflict along the peace line on the Springfield Road."

Meanwhile, in west Belfast some local businesses and sports clubs have also tried to play their role in drawing young people away from the violence.

Fitzys 24hr Convenience Store, a family business based on Falls Road, announced on social media on Thursday night that it would be "offering vouchers to youth services to try and get them away from the interfaces and away from the ongoing criminality that their being lured into".

Sandy Row Football Club and St James's Swifts Football Club, in the St James's area of the Falls Road, both issued appeals on social media asking young people to stay away from the ongoing trouble.

St James Swifts FC also issued an "open invitation anyone at all, from any background, to come along to our training and get involved in something productive" when it resumes next week.

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