Cogent reasons needed for proposed closure of day centres

I was astonished to read a recent report of the proposal of the Belfast Trust to close the two mental health day centres at Everton and Whiterock in north and west Belfast and relocate them at Ravenhill in east Belfast. The reasons given were that Ravenhill, which is a more modern building, would be more easily adapted to new approaches around caring for patients with mental health ailments. To use this reason as the main excuse for closing Everton and Whiterock only adds to the insult given that historically social care in north and west Belfast was always seriously underfunded in comparison with other areas irrespective of the high levels of deprivation this area endured.

So Ravenhill is to be doubly rewarded, not only have they had a purpose-built day centre due to historical generous funding for their area, but Everton Day Centre which was converted from part of an old school – as north and west Belfast could not access capital funding for purpose-built day centres – is to close. This will cause major disruption for the members of Whiterock and Everton who will have to go to Ravenhill with only a short-term commitment from the Belfast Trust to provide transport.  Our most vulnerable members of our community should not have to experience this.

Everyone is aware that services have to modernise and be delivered differently to meet changing needs and developments. However, there is nothing contained within the Belfast Trust documents that would prevent new and upgraded services being delivered at either Whiterock or Everton. I would like to know how many members and their families/carers were consulted? We all know about the high levels of deprivation in the areas that these centres serve (the most deprived areas in the Belfast Trust) and we all know from high levels of deprivation come a high incidence of mental health. 

Is the Belfast Trust unaware of the high suicide rate in these areas?

Services previously based in Albert Street have moved to the city centre.  Old Age Psychiatry services formerly based in north and west Belfast have been moved to south Belfast. 

We all remember the Trauma Centre for Northern Ireland being based in leafy south Belfast even though most of those traumatised in the Troubles come from north and west Belfast.  The Belfast Trust needs to offer more rational and cogent reasons for their proposal to close Everton and Whiterock. Maybe our somnolent politicians will  pay just a bit of attention to this matter.


Belfast BT13

Unique musical project unites different cultures

Recently in Carnegie Library, Bangor I attended an event I never thought I would see, a loyalist flute band The Shankill Road Defenders playing music with Muslim musicians to a very appreciate audience.

Pastor McConnell eat your heart out.

A unique project has united a Shankill organisation with fellow musicians from across the world, for the Shankill Road Defenders are on the attack – against racism against ethnic communities who have made their homes in Northern Ireland and against the stereotyping of their own culture. The chairman of the defenders David Thompson explained that he was sick of people the world over depicting Orangemen as bigots playing sectarian tunes outside Catholic chapels and they wanted to take another route.

Karwan Shareef, a human rights lawyer and Muslim from Kurdistan said in the same way he was depicted as a terrorist.

Under a project called Music Unite spearheaded by a community group called Beyond Skin and several other organisations, the Defenders have been playing for eight months alongside people, including Muslim musicians, from a wide range of countries across the world, such as Jamaica, India, Slovakia, Ghana and Kurdistan. A uilleann piper has also crossed the divide in Belfast to play with the flute band on the Shankill.

Certainly here in Bangor I know a number of musicians who started in a loyalist flute band and are now playing Irish traditional music.

The idea to use music as the glue that would bring people together from different walks of life, learn about the bands and allow the bandsmen to find out about other cultures at the same time is to be welcomed.


Bangor, Co Down

Money to burn

For the life of me I cannot understand why money was given to anyone to build bonfires by Antrim Council. They surely must have money to burn.

I used to hear the nuns in the convent school I went to say: “Wilful waste makes woeful want.” How true those words are today when you see David Cameron reduce the public purse for the less well of such as pensioners among others. 

People who need heat in winter could use the thousands spent on buying pallets which encourages sectarianism.

Those same pensioners get a pittance to keep warm in winter while money is spent on pallets to build fires outdoors in summer when they are a danger to anyone who lives near them.

I am surprised it has taken so long for someone to say enough is enough we cannot afford to burn money this way. 

No money should be given for bonfires since the executive has to cut their coat according to the cloth they have. Anyone who spends in this way has no conscience whatsoever.

It is time for all politicians to get off their rear ends and work for the good of all the people.

If farmers burned farmyard waste they would be liable for prosecution. Perhaps Antrim council has not heard of this or do they just turn a blind eye when it comes to funding piles of toxic gases to pollute the whole environment?

In no way is this celebrating anyone’s culture.


Silverbridge Co Armagh   

Changing attitudes

According to Jim Gibney (September 16): “The IRA is highly respected in republican areas for its role during the conflict and for its commitment to peace.”

How can it have a commitment to anything when it no longer exists?  Furthermore, what was its role in starting the conflict, namely the armed struggle for Irish freedom against British rule?

Jim stated that “nationalists and republicans are all over the place and the leaders of the unionist parties have to accept and respect that reality”.

But prior to that he also stated: “Thanks to the peace process the IRA’s place is firmly (embedded) in the communities’ historical memory. It is akin to how I, as a teenager in the late 1960s, viewed the IRA from previous times”.

How does he think IRA talk plays out inside the broad unionist community?  Perhaps it is also embedded in their memory.

On the same day Brian Feeney fired a parting shot: “Unionism needs a change of attitude but first they have to admit they’re the problem”.

Not according to Jim Gibney.


Belfast BT15

Road safety request  to MLAs

IN January The Irish News published a letter from  me to the Stormont assembly about cars having their headlights on between the winter months of November to late March. This is the time of year of less daylight and we adjust the clocks late October and again in March. 

There was no response from any assembly member. They will be looking for our votes next May for Stormont assembly seats. We will soon be moving the clocks again this month so how about it assembly members? Can any of you put through a common sense road safety law? 

Who knows the Scottish and Welsh assemblies might follow our example and the Dail and Westminster? 


Warrenpoint, Co Down