Failure to tackle poverty hits Interfaces hardest
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton speaking at the 2nd annual Belfast Interface Project Conference today has said that the issue of interfaces affects the lives of people living in north Belfast on a daily basis.
Ms Stanton said:
"Interface issues affect most aspects of life in North Belfast on a daily basis. However, interfaces have been in the press for all the wrong reasons. It is not just about sectarian attacks. There are many more complex issues particularly in relation to poverty.
"It is clear that all strategies aimed resolving the issues that surround tensions at interface areas in North Belfast and across the north of Ireland, from the British and Irish Governments, the NIO, funding bodies and statutory agencies have failed.
"The repeated call for a community response to interface violence, the politics of the sound-bite, is not matched by support on the ground. Lip service is paid to community approaches yet there is no credible consultation process or long-term funding for those within our communities who are out 24-7, 365 days a year attempting to address interface tensions.
"If there was an analysis of the cost of the work carried out by community and voluntary activists on the ground in keeping the interfaces calm, it would show a huge additional cost. Yet funding for the community sector is decimated, youth workers are lost and frontline service are eroded.
"There is also the real need for dialogue. Sinn Féin is willing to provide the leadership required and step up to the mark. We will talk to anyone in order to address interface issues whether it is interface violence, sectarianism, housing, and poverty, employment or youth provision.
"Direct rule ministers and civil servants have failed to address the key issues. It is up to those who have lived, experience and worked closely with these issues to resolve the problems and not have to wait for on next direct rule ad hoc approach.
"It is no coincidence that interface problems are found in working class areas of the highest social deprivation. Consistently, the same areas come top of all the social deprivation indices. There is no clearer demonstration of failed government policies to tackle poverty than this. Simply, it's not working.
"Sinn Féin stand shoulder to shoulder with poverty campaigners and groups lobbying demanding a real anti-poverty strategy. Elected and non-elected Sinn Féin activists battle poverty both locally and nationally on a daily basis. October 20th will see Sinn Féin hosting a National Conference "Tackling Poverty, Locally and Globally". This will be held in North Belfast where the interface violence has been most protracted and acute.
"Rather than investing in jobs, health, education, housing and facilities budgets are being cut by British Ministers who only have a short-term vested interest. Look at the education cuts, the reduction in Youth Workers posts, and the introduction of water charges. These cuts and increases in the cost of living will hit anyone suffering from poverty. At a time when outreach and direction are needed towards our youth at interfaces 20 youth worker jobs are removed across Belfast.
"It is time has for a genuine and open dialogue with all political and community stakeholders and both governments to implement a long term strategy aimed at addressing the underlying causes of conflict and division at interfaces ranging from sectarianism, employment, education, housing and poverty related issues. Hard questions must be asked as to how public resources have not been delivered to those making a difference on the ground and why there is no comprehensive approach to tackle poverty and the day-to-day challenges of living at interfaces. ENDS