Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry has condemned recent ‘death-riding’ incidents in the Lower Falls area.
Questioning the level of contribution which elected politicians have made to developing the area she has also called for a comprehensive regeneration plan to “turn this community around”
“The damage, misery and grief inflicted on the community by these types of incidents cannot and should not be underestimated”, Joanne said.
“Two recent events, in particular, – in Ross Road last week and in the early hours of Monday morning on the Grosvernor Road – have brought media and wider public attention to this problem , but it is an on-going and almost daily reality for many areas throughout West Belfast, with often serious and sometimes fatal consequences”, she said.
“It would be great to be able to say that there is an easy, quick and permanent solution to car theft, ‘death riding’ and all the destruction and misery that it brings. But there is not”.
“That doesn’t mean that we should do nothing and I know of some very positive work being undertaken by groups and individuals in this area to overcome these problems”.
Socially deprived areas Joanne pointed out that this level of destruction does not happen right across Belfast.
“Historically it occurs in socially deprived areas with high unemployment, where many young people have few if any qualifications, low aspirations and low self-esteem. Those factors are often further compounded by substance abuse”, she explained.
“Death riding and other anti-social activity is a direct result of living in some of the areas in West Belfast. This doesn’t happen on the Malone Road or Holywood Co. Down: we can’t ignore that. The roots of the problems are located in the social and economic conditions of these areas and some, but of course not all, young males, in particular, who feel they have no worth and no way out react as they do”, she said.
Outlining her approach to the problem she said,
“What we must tackle are the causes of their behaviour and our local elected representatives have questions to answer. What investment, opportunity and hope have they brought to west Belfast and to the Lower Fall area in particular? Many will be queuing up to condemn these incidents – and rightly so – but what can they say that they have done to materially change conditions in these areas? I think the answer is very little”.
No quick fixes “A united, focussed and long-term community response is required – and that needs to be funded, resourced and supported by all the statutory agencies: PSNI, education health and social care, housing and the environment, working with the local community to turn areas like the Lower Falls around. There are no quick fixes and no amount of ‘punishment’ attacks will solve this problem: in fact they only make matters worse and bring further suffering to local families”, added Joanne
”I am now calling for on the Department for Communities to convene a series of meetings involving all the agencies and local communities throughout West Belfast with a view to producing a comprehensive community regeneration plan to bring jobs, social initiatives, investment and pride to this area, This is the best and only long-term way this community can respond”, she said