CAOIMHIN Agyarko's desire to headline a major card in Belfast will become a reality late this year according to promoter Eddie Hearn as he officially welcomes the West Belfast middleweight to the Matchroom stable last week.
FALLS Community Council have been at the heart of West Belfast for almost 50 years having been founded in 1974 as a resource centre at a time when the conflict was at its height. This week, I sat down with current Director at the Falls Community Council, Gerry McConville, to look back on the beginnings of the group, how far it has come and the issues that he sees arising in the future. Discussing the origins of the Falls Community Council, Gerry began by explaining how the founders started out by distributing newsletters within the community. “Aside from that, they also liaised with Belfast City Council which was quite innovative for that time,” he said. “The City Council really operated on its own accord and the founders started making representations to the Council on issues of local importance such as housing. They were also behind the setting up of a number of tenant associations, which have progressed from there.” The Falls Community Council has adapted in many ways since then and occupied many different premises before their current home close to Beechmount. When looking at what projects they currently offer, Gerry adds that they take their lead from local residents. “Whatever is important to residents on the ground, they are the issues that we want to deal with. Now we have a wide range of programmes from programmes of activity to programmes of advocacy. “During the pandemic, myself and others from across West Belfast got together to advocate for things that we felt were needed on the ground. “Myself and Jim Girvan, who manages Tullymore, represented the area on the Department for Communities Emergency Leadership Group. We were able to represent the views of residents on that and bring issues of key importance to that committee and for example, we highlighted the fact that poverty is abject. “Tackling poverty is at the core of everything we do at the Falls Community Council. Through our role on the Leadership Group we were able to bring forward the Warm, Well, Connected Scheme which allowed people to avail of fuel top-ups and is similar to what Minister Hargey has announced recently. “We were able to get that out to those negatively affected economically by Covid including the likes of hospitality workers and taxi drivers who had been furloughed. We were also able to inform the Department when it came to how to best provide assistance with food supplies so that we could let service users maintain their dignity through the process. “A lot of our work involves trying to get government departments to listen to what is happening on the ground and make their policies relevant to the local people.” In addition to the advocacy work, Falls Community Council also deliver a number of projects funded through the Department for Communities including the Amps project which allows the group to train up individuals in a high-tech music studio to develop their skills and allow them to enter into careers in the music and broadcast industries. The Falls Community Council also have a number of rehearsal and recording studios to allow local musicians to develop their own music and launch their careers. When it comes to community safety, the Falls Community Council run a drug and alcohol project which provides support to those negatively affected by drugs and provides training. “We coordinate most of the community safety work that goes on in the west of the city and work with the local DPCSP. We also have a project with Communities in Transition which looks at community safety, policing and regeneration. “Just this week, we have decided that we are going to run a campaign against drug dealing. The availability of drugs now is frightening. “They are available right across the area and we are seeing criminal gangs exploiting the situation and we have had several high profile murders within the area as a result of that.” The new project will provide interventions and make the community safer for all. In addition to this, The Falls Community Council are involved in a wide variety of good relations projects, bringing together residents and young people from the Falls and Shankill to look at sectarianism alongside issues that divide both communities and how they can be overcome. “We have also held a number of discussions on tackling paramilitarism and the disarmament of groups who still hold weapons. This involved bringing together people from a unionist and nationalist background to discuss how they see the way forward in getting these groups to disband.” Gerry said that while these are very hard hitting subjects, they don't tackle anything that is easy. “We also have our advice centre which is a front-line service assisting those most negatively affected by poverty,” he continued. “Applying for benefits now isn’t easy and a lot of it is online. We would make sure that those availing of our services get the most professional help available which acts as an economic booster for the local community, bringing in close to £1m a year into local people’s pockets. “We know that poverty exists but Covid has allowed us to see that very explicitly and the numbers out there are shocking. The pandemic has given us all a chance to refocus and dig deep down into our communities and tackle that. “The main issues that we are seeing comes from the rise in fuel and energy prices. There is a stark need for intervention and we welcome any intervention from the Department for Communities on that.” Gerry added that there is definitely a need for support when people are having to choose between heating and eating, particularly in these cold times. “We also need to see more support for people in terms of the cost of living. We need to make sure that families have enough to meet their needs. It isn’t good enough to say that you get so much in support and that is adequate,” he said. “We need to make sure that people can enjoy a standard of living and a lifestyle that is healthy. We cannot have people living off basics and trying to stretch to make ends meet because it has a really negative affect. “Poverty affects everything. It affects educational attainment, it affects job prospects and it goes to the heart of every ill that there is in society. We need to be serious about tackling poverty and we will be lobbying to make sure that any strategies that are developed, meet the needs on the ground.”
ANTRIM'S Walsh Cup campaign may have ended in defeat to Galway at Darver on Saturday afternoon, but the Saffrons will be feeling much better about themselves than they were a week ago after a disappointing day in Offaly.
TWO early goals by Lisburn Distillery’s Scott Brannigan and Michael Withers ensured they progressed in the Intermediate Cup against Belfast Celtic side in a fast-paced and heated game at Glen Road Heights on Saturday.
I WANT to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy. The spontaneous public outpouring of grief at her murder underlines the frustration and anger that exists at the habitual reports of violence against women. Condolences are not enough. Men, and I include myself in this, need to take responsibility for ensuring that every woman has the right to be safe and that there is zero tolerance of male violence against women. Our friend and Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin says this better than I ever could. The Women of Ireland Are Fed Up. By Emma SheerinFrom our grandmothers, educated in Latin and the catechism, but not about menstruation; locked up whether they fell prey to a neighbour or ‘chose to commit a mortal sin’, as if either were crimes, as if they deserved a life in an institution. Those lucky enough to be ‘good girls’ – what was their reward? A life locked to the kitchen sink. Caring for parents or child after child. A miscarriage? A stillbirth? No consecrated burial. ‘Don’t mourn your baby’ the priest said, but life begins at conception. The swinging sixties. Mini skirts and the pill. The pulpit still ruled. ‘She got herself in trouble.’ Those who escaped the convents; the scrubbing brushes and the loss of their healthy, happy baby, got whispers and judgement. Some fled. Boats to England. Secrets held forever. ‘He gave her a hammering,’ the neighbours would remark. Nobody’s business, ‘He’s a nice fella.’ ‘Why does she stay with him?’ a more enlightened friend might say, someone not horrified by divorce, ignorant of financial realities. ‘Why does he hit her?’ they forget to ask?
WHEN there is a report of the significance of Operation Greenwich, exposing to the world the depth of collusion during the conflict, there is often a reaction in our community that says, ‘We shouldn’t be surprised.’ Should we not? I’m surprised that Ulster Resistance took the weapons they had from the South African shipment and billed the UVF and UDA when they distributed them. Should we not be surprised that Ulster Resistance, an entirely legal entity that boasted of members including the leadership of the DUP, doing the invoicing? I’m surprised that a report tells us that in February 1991, a cache of military documents which included the names of over 250 individuals was discovered in a raid on a UDR member’s home and that in on May 31 s Assistant Chief Constable saw fit to direct the RUC not to warn the 250-plus individuals that they might be at risk. And that the names included those of Thomas Donaghy and Bernard O’Hagan, who were killed weeks later, the person whose home had been raided a suspect in the killings.
JEFFREY Donaldson says he didn’t do a deal with the British Government allowing him to stand in Lagan Valley in May’s Assembly election. And of course Squinter’s pretty sure that the issue just didn’t arise when the boy Jeffrey met senior Government figures in London just a few days earlier. He’s on a bit of a cleft stick, is the DUP leader. He’s desperate to become First Minister, which before this deal… sorry, completely spontaneous and out-of-the-blue announcement by the NIO, would have meant him standing down from his seat in the Commons. And that’s something of an appalling vista. The leader standing down would mean a by-election in Lagan Valley with a much lower-profile DUP figure taking his place. Jeff is what you might call one of the party Big Beasts, despite his diminutive stature, but even so he got the fright of his life in the 2019 election, when his vote plummeted by over 16 per cent, while Alliance ingénue Sorcha Eastwood saw her vote surge by roughly the same amount. And, given the buffeting in the polls Jeff and his party have taken in recent months over a weak-as-water performance on the Protocol, is there anybody who doesn’t think there’s a real danger that Loyal Lisburn could be about to turn green, white and yellow? And if the DUP were to lose a once rock-solid constituency with the new boy at the helm, well… the troops might start to think that the Edwin Poots boy wasn’t such a disaster after all.
THE furore created by the outrageous comments of the former MP Kate Hoey about nationalists in the professions has refused to go away. The main target of Ms Hoey and her unionist associates, Professor Colin Harvey of Queen’s University, has spoken of his gratitude for the wave of support that he has received from academic colleagues both on these islands and around the world. However, certain individuals and media outlets have been doubling down on the contention that the law, the media and academia have been invaded by hordes of nationalist sleepers posing as solicitors, barristers, judges, reporters, broadcasters, professors and lecturers. Meanwhile, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has refused to withdraw the support that he offered to the report in which Ms Hoey made her remarks. It’s a story as old as colonialism itself. The gradual move away from subjugation towards justice and freedom has always at best discomfited those who have historicially benefited from the status quo – at worst it has sent them into paroxysms of existential confusion and fury. The latter is proving to be the case here in the North. Growing conversations around the future and the willingness by so many to enter into the debate about a new Ireland are causing huge angst among unionists already struggling to come to terms with the worsening nightmare that Brexit has become, and in particular the undermining of their position within the United Kingdom brought about by their Protocol betrayal at the hands of the UK Government. It’s no surprise that the three professions in focus in this unedifying episode are ones which historically were not so much cold houses for nationalists and Catholics as ice palaces. The law was for decades effectively an arm of the one-party state, and during the most recent phase of the conflict the judiciary were happy to turn the handle of the meat grinder that was the Diplock Courts system. The press in the North was overwhelmingly unionist, a cheerleader for the anti-Irish Stormont regime, turning a blind eye to the egregious injustices which led inevitably to the outbreak of violence, and later acting as stenographers for the British Army and RUC press offices. The BBC was a bastion of unionist supremacy for decades, steadfastly ignoring the existence of Irish identity and culture while celebrating an annual anti-Catholic parade (amazingly, it still does). Queen’s University, of course, was to the fore in the fair employment battles of the 80s and 90s, its religious breakdown as grotesquely skewed as that of the shipyard or Shorts. What we’re seeing is a belated correcting of historic wrongs, a welcome injection of equality into institutions desperately in need of it. Not only can that process not be halted, much less reversed, those who rail against should be aware that there are many more advances still to be made. Those who don’t like it have a simple choice: get with the programme or get out of the way.