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Adams praises role of Safer Neighbourhood Project

15 February, 2008

Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin west Belfast MP MLA this morning addressed a conference organised by the Upper Springfield Safer Neighbourhood Forum in the Whiterock community centre.

Entitled 'What does Community Safety mean in west Belfast - Creating a Multi-Agency Approach' the conference was attended by several hundred people.

Those present included local residents, community groups involved in the Safer Neighbourhood Project, statutory agencies and senior members of the PSNI.

The Upper Springfield Safer Neighbourhood Forum was initially established to deal with the many problems arising out of a conflict between two criminal gangs in the area, which left one man murdered, homes petrol bombed and other people with serious injuries.

The west Belfast MP commended the progress that has been made in the Upper Springfield area since the Safer Neighbourhood Forum was established last year and praised the work of all of those involved.

Mr. Adams said:

"The heart of this project is contained in its multi-agency approach and the engagement between the statutory public bodies and the community.

This has been good for everyone.

I want to thank all of those agencies who have contributed funding to this project. It is crucial that it is sustained. Many of the services arising out of this project are dealing with young people, with mental health issues and counselling for families. It is important that we move away from the sort of ad hoc funding approach that has existed thus far and introduce a measure of stability and sustainability into these and similar projects."

Mr. Adams highlighted the issues affecting victims of crime. He said:

"While offenders and accused have rights and these must be upheld and promoted; victims of crime are often locked out of processes. This has to be corrected."

The West Belfast MP went on to praise the local people, particularly local women, who have taken a stand in defence of our community. He said:

"As we came to deal with repeat offenders, and with criminals in breach for example of bail conditions, it needed citizens to come forward to make statements or to go to court to give evidence.

"I want to praise those who have done so, particularly local women, who faced up to intimidation and harassment in the interests of our community."

However the West Belfast MP expressed concern at the current approach of the Department of Social Development to the Forum.

Mr. Adams said:

"Last year there was a genuinely liberating engagement between all of the agencies and a representative cross-section from the local community under the auspices of a Task Force. It was co-chaired by my office and the deputy permanent secretary of DSD. The Task Force produced an excellent report with many recommendations about how to take this project forward.

"Regrettably there has been no complete response from the department on this. On the contrary there is some evidence to suggest that the DSD is pulling back from the necessary work going on in this area. This is unacceptable.

"There is a lot of work to be done in this area. Moreover, the success of this project provides an important template for communities confronting similar problems to organise and tackle problems in their areas." Críoch

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