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Community Safety Forum for West Belfast

12 May, 2008

Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams and British Direct Rule Minister Paul Goggins this morning announced the establishment of a west Belfast Community Safety Forum.

The Forum has been modelled on the Upper Springfield Safer Neighbours Forum.

The following is the text of Mr. Adams speech this morning: Check against delivery.

Tackling Crime - Building a Safer Community in West Belfast

The West Belfast Community Safety Forum

"I want to welcome all of you here this morning, including Direct Rule Minister Paul Goggins who still has responsibility for Policing and Justice matters.

Paul and I have been meeting regularly in recent months to discuss the issue of crime and community safety in this constituency, and what steps can be taken to effectively tackle it.

I want to acknowledge the frustration and anger that exists about the level and consequences of anti-community and criminal activity from a tiny minority; including the brutal murders of three of our neighbours and friends, Harry Holland, John Mongan and Frank McGreevy.

I want to welcome members of all their families here this morning.

And I want to take this opportunity to commend all of them for the great dignity they have shown following the murder of their loved ones and their commitment to stand against the thugs responsible.

All of us, parents, policing and justice agencies, educators, the media, public representatives, have a duty, a responsibility to deal with crime and anti-community behaviour.

Following the murder of Gerard Devlin and the fighting that took place between two gangs in that area, the people of the Upper Springfield, along with Sinn Fein representatives, developed an inclusive partnership approach which has made a real difference.

Of course, it has been a learning experience for all involved.

Not least for local people, and the policing and justice agencies.

In the past the relationship between the local community, the RUC and the Criminal Justice system had been confrontational and hostile.

The creation of the PSNI, and the changes to policing and justice brought in over years of negotiations, have created a new climate in which a partnership approach has become possible.

I want to commend all of those who have worked very hard to ensure that the Upper Springfield Safer Neighbourhood Forum and Intervention Project have been successful in tackling crime, improving relations between the community and the PSNI, and in creating a safer environment for residents.

I think it is important to also commend all of those who work every day in the communities and voluntary sector, in our schools, youth sector and sporting organisations, sometimes in very difficult circumstances.

Sinn Fein has been working closely with many of you in this room to develop a strategic approach which would see the Upper Springfield model extended across west Belfast, and elsewhere were similar issues exist.

Today's announcement is an important step along that road.

The west Belfast Community Safety Forum, and the resources announced today, have the potential to make a real difference in people's lives.

It will require the dedication and commitment of all of those who are involved with it, and it will necessitate the statutory agencies; Belfast City Council, the Department of Social Development, the Departments of Health and Education and others, to especially to look closely at how this project can be properly financed and resourced and sustained.

There should be no penny pinching.

Initiatives like this require long-term resources and citizens have the right to expect sustainable funding for this project.

This Community Safety Forum approach has the potential to reduce crime, reduce anti-community behaviour, improve community life, including the health of citizens, and of saving money currently spent, for example, on supervising the 500 people from west Belfast who are currently on a range of community based orders.

It will need to look at measures designed to curb street-drinking and underage drinking, illegal drugs, and how to tackle the problem of repeat offenders.

There is also a need to invest greater resources into youth provisions and safer play areas.

I would appeal therefore to anyone concerned with these issues to join their local Safer Neighbourhood Project, or if none exists to help put one in place.

I would appeal to everyone who should be involved in the west Belfast Community Safety Forum to do so enthusiastically.

Let's make it the success that we all want it to be and provide a positive example to other communities facing similar difficulties that it is possible to make things better." Críoch

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