More funding needed to tackle area’s problems

FUNDING is badly needed to tackle the problems created by a small group of youths in the Laurencetown area, according to Community Centre manager Neil Gillan.

FUNDING is badly needed to tackle the problems created by a small group of youths in the Laurencetown area, according to Community Centre manager Neil Gillan.

Last week the Leader highlighted how a gang of teenagers are making the lives of people living in the Churchview Close and Millar Park areas a misery.

The young people, aged between 12 and 17, have shouted abuse at pensioners outside their homes, thrown stones at cars and windows, and sprayed sectarian graffiti on walls and fences just off the Drumnascamph Road.

But work is ongoing behind the scenes to tackle long-running issues within the village and, since Neil’s appointment in March last year progress has been made.

“I can honestly say that 95 per cent of the young people in this area are good kids,” said Neil. “There are between 25 and 30 young people in this area who volunteer whether it’s coming in to serve Christmas dinners to the older people, or helping to run the annual summer scheme.

“It (the anti-social behaviour) is not the norm in this area. There are young people who want to put something back in.”

But some children are harder to reach than others, said Neil, who is trying to secure funding for a dedicated community worker to try and tackle the problems currently faced by residents in the area.

Some young people gather on the grass verge opposite the community centre, a tradition that has taken place for years in the village. But even work by residents and community workers alike to erect an alleygate preventing them from ‘parking up’ has failed to address the problem.

“We think we have done a lot of good work over the past 12 months,” said Neil. “And we are willing to work with anyone who will work with us. But we don’t have the money or the time to dedicate to this small minority who don’t seem to want to engage no matter what we do.”

Since last year youths who attend the community centre have participated in training teaching them about anti-sectarian and mutual respect. They have even been addressed by comedian Patrick Kielty about their sense of identity, flags and their attitudes to people from different backgrounds.

“I think Patrick Kielty probably did more in that one night to challenge them than we could ever do,” said Neil. But in order to keep the youths out of trouble continued funding is badly needed, he added.

“We’re funded by the council, the trust, and the lottery but we’re a small community association,” said Neil. “We are hopeful we will continue to get funding from the council but are concerned about funding from the trust in light of budget cuts.”