Northern Ireland news

`Wise up and get your act together', Eamonn Holmes tells Stormont

TV star Eamonn Holmes during his visits to homeless project in Belfast Eamonn Holmes visit the Peoples Kitchen Belfast at Farset International to meet volunteers and those who are homeless Previously St Patricks Soup Kitchen the Peoples Kitchen Belfast was launched in September 2020 to help meet the needs of those who are homeless and experiencing poverty and to date has supported thousands of individuals and families who find it hard to make ends meet. Picture by Hugh Russell.

TV star Eamonn Holmes has told Stormont politicians to "wise up and get your act together" after an emotional visit to a Belfast soup kitchen and foodbank.

The Good Morning presenter, who is a trustee of the Manchester United Foundation, said an announcement is imminent about the extension of its work to Northern Ireland due to the scale of deprivation in the region.

He had earlier been told the support being provided by the People's Kitchen is "just a sticking plaster" for those struggling to feed themselves and their families.

Councillor Paul McCusker, who helps run the facility at Farset International in west Belfast, said their help is sought daily by "people in crisis for various reasons" and recounted how they "see desperation in people's faces - some children haven't eaten for days when they come to us".

Mr Holmes said he would make sure the things he has learned about their work will now inform similar work being carried out in England by the foundation.

While he was there, Mr Holmes helped staff who were putting together a food package for "a family waiting outside" for help and posed for selfies with residents of the hostel.

Formerly based at St Patrick's church hall on Donegall Street, the kitchen maintains a city centre presence with an open air provision in Writer's Square on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mr McCusker said its services are more in demand than ever before, with 700-1,000 meals prepared there every week and groceries delivered to homes across the city - often in Tesco bags to replicate supermarket deliveries due to the stigma felt by recipients who "worked all their lives and find it hard to accept help".

Mr Holmes insisted he knows politics is "a tough job, I wouldn't want to be a politician", but called on those in Stormont to "wise up, get your act together and see what's here".

"If it's not about people what is it about? What are you elected for?"

He added of Northern Ireland's preoccupation with different communities: "Protestant, Catholic, LGBT... I don't care what your community is, care for your community, knock doors and find out what they need."

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