Category Archives: News Features

Andersonstown Leisure Centre to close on 29 May for council revamp

The centre was first developed in 1979.

Andersonstown Leisure Centre is to close its doors on May 29 so that refurbishment works can begin.

The centre was first established in 1979

Plans for the new centre were revealed in March as part of Belfast City Council’s £105m Leisure Transformation Programme . The programme aims to promote the Andersonstown facilities as the centre for water-based family fun.

The new centre is due to open in the summer 2019 with users advised to use other council leisure facilities in the meantime.

£25million was invested into the project, which will provide a family fun water centre and dry leisure facilities.

The ‘water’ plans include three slides: Masterblaster, Flatline Loop and body slide

However staff at the Leisure Centre have said they are angry at the lack of information they have received regarding the future of their jobs when the centre closes.

Deborah Boyle has worked as a receptionist in the centre from when it was first built in 1979.

She claims that staff have been given an “unfair choice” and that some still do not know if they will be given employment in other council leisure centres. Mrs Boyle says:

“They’ve offered us a redundancy package which is pathetic. It’s pittance.

I’ve worked here for nearly 40 years, loads of us have been here since the beginning.

It’s an unfair choice, either take the redundancy or wait around and hope there’s room for you somewhere else.”

The renovation follows the opening of the state-of-the-art Olympia Leisure Centre located on Boucher Road, Belfast.

Now simply named ‘The Olympia’ the centre is managed by the GLL ‘Better’ brand which has worked in partnership with Belfast city council to operate leisure centres since 2015.

The proposed plans for exterior of the centre

“Just not good enough”

People Before Profit Councillor Matthew Collins says that both staff and the community haven’t been given sufficient opportunity to voice their concerns. Mr Collins claims:

“I’ve spoken to the community and staff members who are not happy with the development plans.

Consultation was minimal from the start and it is just not good enough that some staff have been left confused when the closure is so soon.”

Swimming instructor Brendan Mulholland has been running swimming lessons for children for over 20 years in Andersonstown.

Brendan will be taking lessons in Whiterock until the building is finished and understands the need for renovation, but disagrees with the design plans of the new centre. He says:

“I’m trying to teach young people how to swim competitively and they’re making this place into a kiddies fun centre.

The council don’t care they just want to get as many people as possible through the doors”

  • The agreed facilities are:
  • large family fun focused area of leisure water
  • 25m six lane pool with 50 spectator seats
  • Learner Pool
  • Confidence water for small children and toddlers
  • 140 station fitness suite
  • Exercise studios
  • Spin studio
  • Cafe
  • Multipurpose room
  • Range of outdoor provision such as five-a-side pitches

“It definitely needs modernised.”

Regular gym user Clare Bannon says that new facilities are needed. Clare says:

“The rooms aren’t very well ventilated and the spin studio and gym can get so warm that you’re sweating before you’ve started working out! It definitely needs modernised.”

Ventilation, changing rooms and dry areas are to be improved upon under the new plans.

Ground Floor plans for the refurbished centre

A Belfast City Council spokesman has stated:

“Having developed initial designs for the new facility, we carried out a community consultation in September 2016.

Based on the feedback from this consultation the designs for the new centre were further refined.

We carried out a further period of consultation and recognise the importance of engaging staff to ensure they are aware of plans going forward.”

The new Andersonstown Leisure Centre is due to open in summer 2019.

Northern Ireland and the EU Referendum – What next?

With the first anniversary of the EU Referendum on the horizon, it could be argued that the vote to leave the European Union has generated many more questions than answers.

The fate of the United Kingdom appears to have been sealed after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 back in March, which officially opened the two-year divorce negotiations with the EU.

Article 50’s triggering puts an end to the UK’s 44-year association with Europe.

The Prime Minister then proceeded to call a snap general election for 8 June, and is set to battle it out with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the right to lead the UK out of their EU membership over the next two years.

Regardless of who ends up with the keys to 10 Downing Street, numerous significant issues will need to be addressed to avoid a so-called “hard” Brexit.

One of the most important of these issues concerns the impact that Brexit will have on the island of Ireland, and particularly the questions surrounding the Common Travel Area.

A hard border has not been seen between the Republic and Northern Ireland since before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, but that is what could materialise following Brexit negotiations.

Most of the Northern Irish electorate voted to remain in the EU, much like voters in Scotland. However, a significant surge in leave votes in England and Wales meant that the leave campaign obtained an overall majority, regardless of the results in the devolved nations.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

The result of the referendum has been met with widespread anger and ridicule in Northern Ireland. Most of the main parties such as Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Alliance Party all campaigned for a remain outcome, with only the Democratic Unionist Party lobbying for a leave vote in the North.

The SDLP, among others, say that the result is unjust since 56% of Northern Ireland voted in favour of remaining in the EU, and they have called for the Northern Ireland Executive to ‘ensure that the will of the people of Northern Ireland is accurately represented in relation to the European Union.’

Shauna Cusack is a SDLP councillor for the Foyle constituency, and she is adamant that the remain majority in Northern Ireland should be given every opportunity to protect their EU membership, as the consequences may be severe outside the block.

She said: “We have not given our consent to change the constitutional make-up of the North, therefore our membership of Europe should not be altered.

“We here already suffer from the greatest levels of historical, social and economic deprivation and are last on the list when it comes to investment backed and funded by Westminster.

“The ever-reducing Block Grant combined with the austerity of Welfare Reform does not make for a prosperous or bright future.

“EU funding has often been our lifeline. It has provided a plethora of capital and social projects here in the North and has changed both landscapes, communities and even lives. What therefore will fill the gap when this is gone?”

Cllr Cusack was also deeply concerned by the potential of a hard border being erected, and the consequences this may have on those living and working on both sides of the divide.

She asked: “What happens our invisible border on this island? Given our immediate proximity, how will this affect our ability to work, live and claim state assistance in any area of this island, which many in this city and district do?”

“In this single, arguably most life changing political decision of our generation we must ensure that Westminster, for once, respects, protects and prioritises the will of the people here.”

As well as the effects of Brexit mentioned by Cllr Cusack, the demographic that will arguably be hit hardest by the decision to leave is the younger generation.

Youngsters who had grand plans to work within another EU country will find it much more difficult to obtain the legal documents necessary following Brexit negotiations, which may go some way to explaining the sudden upsurge in applications for Irish passports in recent months.

It also remains to be seen how EU citizens studying in the UK will be affected when divorce proceedings are finalised.

Students protest at Westminster, London.

Ulster University Students’ Union President, Colum Mackey, believes that Brexit will have a negative impact on the student bodies in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and feels that the overall student experience will suffer drastically.

He said: “The European Union has a terrific relationship with the university, and through EU funding of schemes such as ERASMUS, students are given the opportunity to study abroad in EU nations. This way they can experience unique cultures and make lifelong friendships without losing the overall student experience.

“In the wake of the EU Referendum, I am deeply concerned that schemes such as ERASMUS will not be running for much longer. We may be left relying on funding from the UK government, which is unrealistic given the constant rise in tuition fees year on year.

“There are also many students from EU nations, most notably the Republic of Ireland, who are undergoing their studies here in Northern Ireland and the UK, and it is uncertain at this stage how they will inevitably be affected by the vote.”

When Brexit negotiations finally begin in earnest, those residing in Northern Ireland will be desperate to ensure that the country is not overlooked by the powers that be in Westminster.

Theresa May has previously promised that maintaining the Common Travel Area is an absolute priority for the party, and anything less than an open border could spell logistical chaos in Ireland.

The only question that can be answered with any certainty at this early stage is that the UK will be leaving the European Union – the condition that one of the world’s largest economies will be in when all is said and done is anyone’s guess.

‘Logan’ Review: The final chapter of Wolverine’s story slices and dices all before it

Hugh Jackman in Logan. Photograph: Gamespot

Fans of the X-Men series have been clamouring for a gritty, ultra-realistic and brazenly violent Wolverine movie for many years, and even more so recently considering the success of fellow Fox property Deadpool. In Logan, which is touted to be Hugh Jackman’s last turn as the adamantium-clawed mutant, Fox and director James Mangold have achieved everything they set out to accomplish, and then some.

It is 2029, and mutants have become virtually extinct, with the few that remain seemingly in hiding from their human oppressors. A greying, bearded and dishevelled Logan is living in a rugged outpost near the Mexican border where his primary function is to care for a mentally debilitating Professor Xavier – with the legendary Patrick Stewart reprising his role as the iconic mind-reader for the final time. The Professor requires a lot of medication to restrain his substantial telepathic powers, which Logan pays for through his side job as a limo driver. It is somewhat disturbing to see these archetypal mutants in such a miserable state – it certainly makes a change from Xavier’s lavish X-Mansion in upstate New York.

One of the main story arcs in the film begins when Logan encounters Laura, a powerful young mutant portrayed by actress Dafne Keen who shines in a breakout performance. The girl is hunted by the methodical and frightening half-man, half-cyborg Donald Pierce, with Boyd Holbrook of Narcos fame putting in a superb display of charisma and nefariousness, and he will stop at nothing to bring Laura back to his Mutant Experimentation Centre. At first glance you could be forgiven for wondering why Laura is such an asset to the evil Pierce – but all will become clear around a quarter of the way through as her relationship with Logan develops.

Hugh Jackman has appeared in the X-Men series since its big screen debut in 2000, but for the first time, Wolverine feels mortal. You get the sense that every unsheathing of his trademark claws and blood-soaked battle may be his last, which separates Logan from modern day superhero movies where everyone appears to have an air of invincibility. It is a dark, emotional tale but at the same time an uplifting one. It is the perfect send-off for everyone’s favourite slicer and dicer. You can cast aside many of your superhero tropes and clichés for this one, as James Mangold tears up the rulebook and starts from scratch.

Northern Ireland set to lose ‘instrumental’ European Funding

Due to the uncertain relationship the UK will have with Europe once Brexit takes hold, Northern Ireland council areas are set to lose valuable European funding by 2022.

Derry City Strabane District Council Area (DCSDC) runs one of the many European Socially funded (ESF) programmes across Northern Ireland, called ‘Kick Start to Work’. These programmes are aimed at combating poverty and enhancing social inclusion by reducing economic inactivity, and increasing the skills base of current or future participants of the workplace.

Currently, Derry City Strabane District Council Area has no provisions in place for when the funding ceases. This is a worrying factor for both council workers and members of the public who avail of their unemployment services.

Nicky Gilleece, Kickstart’s Mentoring Officer, said: ‘An incidental benefit of ESF funding is the support network it has created for its participants through the professional mentoring given. This personal service can never be duplicated by Government bodies and will be missed as much as the financial aspect of ESF.’

ESF is the most important factor, financially, for DCSDC Area’s ability to reach out and help the public move forward into the workplace.  40% of the funding comes from ESF which is the largest contributing factor, a further 25% of the funds are from government and council provides 35% match funding.

Derry City Council’s Skills Manager, Tina Gillespie, said ‘Financially over £5m per annum is brought in through ESF. It pays for training which an unemployed / economically inactive person could not pay for or avail of without ESF.’

Without this funding Council Areas would struggle to provide the top quality services currently offered.

In 2015 Derry and Strabane were top of the unemployment rates with 7.4%, followed by Belfast’s 5.2%. They have also consistently been above the NI average unemployment rates for over 10 years. With such frightening figures, it is vital that DCSDC continue working to improve their economic activity.

 

DCSDC Area’s ‘Kick Start to Work’ program offers free and confidential support with employment and training. They assist with job searching, writing CVs, completing job applications, preparing for interviews, and getting into the right training course.

Nicky works directly with the clients and notices the positive economic and emotional benefits the program has.

She said: ‘With a rate into employment of over 30%, Kickstart have assisted hundreds of people with accessing employment opportunities they would not have thought possible.‘

Prior to Kickstart there was no facility for local people to access free, vital and simple services that Kickstart provides and without the program DCSDC Area will have a large void for those in need of economic assistance.

Nicky said: ‘Kickstart’s assistance has been financial, emotional, practical and instrumental to the clients.’

 

While ESF has been a  benefit to DCSDC Area, it is not without its issues. Unemployment rates are still dangerously high and they have scored consistently as one of the most economically deprived council areas across Northern Ireland.

Tina said: ‘Overall, elements of the programme have been very successful but, on the whole, when you look statistically at the targets groups above the percentages have not changed. This is an indictment of both the delivery partners in ESF and the economy itself.’

 

Regardless of statistics, European Socially Funded programmes provide beneficial work; both in helping those unemployed get into the work place and on a personal level.

The training sector will contract as removal of ESF funding and will significantly reduce the provision of training, mentoring and support in the DCSDC area. There will also be unemployment in this sector with regards to staff involved in programmes such as Kickstart.

Nicky said: ‘The bottom line is that opportunities for employment will be lost as these will be taken up by candidates who can afford to train themselves.’

Kickstart’s Outreach Table

 

Tina said: ‘The removal of ESF will remove the comfort blanket that participants have had which increased their independence. This is negative and detrimental. People do not want to avail of the statutory services and provision available as it is linked to government, they feel more at ease with provision from non-government groups.’

At present there is no foreseeable replacement for ESF, but Tina Gillespie ensures that each Council has a strategic plan in place for future growth.  This will address the supply and demand elements of employment and will aim to bring supply and demand to an equilibrium, that is, train for sectors which are growing.

DCSDC Job Growth Forecast

 

She concluded, saying: ‘These plans need to be pushed forward with a smarter use of what money is available and a tighter control and monitoring of this money. There needs to be a focus on pulling funding in from America and monopolising on social enterprises’

With just 5 years till European Social Funding ceases in 2022, it is imperative that Northern Ireland Council Areas accumulate their resources and establish a better, stronger scheme to ensure that employability and skills do not slip, but grow.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Film Review

A film about a fat kid obsessed with being a gangster, an irritable older man and a dog named Tupac doesn’t exactly scream ‘film of the year.’ Yet that’s what many people have said about ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’

Directed and written by Taika Waititi, based off of the novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, the film is an understated drama comedy about companionship.

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is an abandoned delinquent who has been taken from his city life and left with foster carers Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) in a remote farm in the middle of New Zealand.

Waititi builds the relationship between Ricky and Aunt Bella with affection while making you cry with laughter. Bella’s first encounter with ‘fat kid’ Ricky sets the tone of the movie perfectly with the line: ‘what you wanna do, you hungry? That’s a silly question, isn’t it? Look at you.’

But it is the relationship and wild adventure that Ricky and Uncle Hec share that is the heart of the movie.

Faking his own death, with the use of a basketball and old clothes, Ricky burns down the barn and leaves his foster home with his dog Tupac. Hec’s efforts to find Ricky leads the social services to assume that an unstable Hec has kidnapped him, and thus a comical man hunt begins.

Combining a cantankerous Hec and a senseless Ricky in the middle of New Zealand’s bush leads to sacrifices, a lot of misunderstandings and even more laughs.

A standoff with a group of hunters results in one of the film’s best comedic scenes. A daft Ricky unknowingly insinuates that uncle Hec had sexually harassed him, telling the men ‘he made me do stuff.’ The back and forth between an exasperated Hec, confused Ricky and the concerned hunters is comedic genius.

Dennison is a constant scene stealer, managing to balance Ricky’s snappy one liners with subtle emotion, reminding us that underneath the ‘gangster’ facade, he is still an abandoned kid.

The film is not one built on sentiment, but through the laughter it manages to become not only one of the best comedies, but one of the best heartfelt dramas.

The relationship between Ricky and Uncle Hec is characteristic of two puzzle pieces that do not fit together. They are a far cry from a match made in heaven. But the film’s portrayal of the raw and complex nature of humanity makes them exactly what the other needs; they just refuse to admit it.

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLsSChvm0qw

Visit the film’s website: http://wilderpeople.film/#

Empire Film Review: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/hunt-wilderpeople/review/

Barry Crump’s original book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Pork-Watercress-Barry-Crump/dp/0143573748:

Limavady Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide

Limavady Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide (L.I.P.S) is a new charity set up to help those struggling with mental health or suicide. After the death of two young men, the families and concerned community members pulled together to create something to help. Over the years Limavady has lost several lives, mainly young men, to suicide and L.I.P.S hopes to reach out to those struggling. Sheena Morrison, L.I.P.S treasurer, talks about the charity and why it is so necessary.

 

Closing the Dark Hedges to vehicle traffic – how soon is now?

Calls have been made my numerous campaign groups to ensure the Dark Hedges remains a national treasure in Northern Ireland amid fears of its long-term survival, Jonathan McNabb investigates.

The future use of one of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations is under immediate threat, the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust has warned.

The Dark Hedges, known for its background setting in the fictional drama, Game of Thrones, is often busy with cars and buses in the outskirts of Armoy, Co. Antrim.

However, constant pressure on the site from traffic and a high number of tourists has caused debate about the long-term future of the trees.

Out of the 150 trees that were planted by the Stuart family in the 1700s as a dramatic approach to their Georgian mansion, only 90 remain, with one being uprooted in February’s Storm Doris.

The site feels the full impact of Storm Doris in February.

The site is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year and is on a list of the 12 best road trips in the UK and Ireland compiled by the website continental road trip.

In 2015, it was estimated that over 10,000 Game of Thrones fans visited the site on tours across the Province.

The natural phenomena is one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland for amateurs and professionals, but this increase in popularity means the beech trees are surface rooting and cannot withstand the heavy flow of traffic.

Graham Thompson, CEO of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust, explains that the ‘experience’ of visiting the iconic site is becoming damaged by cars and other road traffic.

He said: “It is important that cars don’t come down the road so that the whole experience of visiting the site is appreciated more by the people who are coming.

“Cars are just one of the many issues as there are also buses that stop here and disrupt the whole experience for others.

“We are working with the Hedges Hotel and the Gracehill golf complex to try and come up with an integrated management solution.

“This will involve traffic management and reducing the amount of cars and other vehicle gaining access to the site.”

The site is in danger of being destroyed by road traffic, Graham Thompson says.

Mr. Thompson also revealed that the Trust has been in discussions with the Northern Ireland Assembly to resolve the issue.

“Cars will be stopped coming up the road,” he added.

“Measures have been put forward to the Assembly to restrict vehicle movement.

“We don’t know what will happen but it is our aim that people will park off site, the road will be free of traffic and they will have a much better visitor experience.”

Jonathan Hobbs, writer of the blog NI Greenways, is in agreement with Mr. Thompson and believes road traffic around the area can be managed ‘very easily’.

He said: “The Woodland Trust have estimated that the Dark Hedges have about 20 years left if we continue to let traffic along the Bregagh Road at current levels.

“For such a small intervention closing vehicle access at both ends is a small price to pay to protect this important piece of rural heritage and a tourist draw.

“The Council, the Department for Infrastructure and many local politicians and community voices seem to be working towards this very solution.

“There’s very little essential access needed along the road, nothing which can’t be managed very easily. There is a decent car park already in place at the Dark Hedges Hotel just across the road.

The Dark Hedges Hotel and the nearby Gracehill Golf Club offer free car parking near the site.

“You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive right down to the Giant’s Causeway and park up on the famous stones at the side of the road there.

“The Dark Hedges has a big role to play in drawing in tourists from around the world in the future and we need to offer visitors a safe and pleasant experience which is memorable for the right reasons.”

Sam Reynolds, who lives in nearby Stranocum, believes local authorities need to resolve this issue immediately; otherwise the site ‘could be gone for good.’

He said: “I have seen a major deterioration in the area in the last four or five years.

“Trees have fallen and the grass verges are becoming destroyed at an alarming rate.

“Traffic at the site is causing severe damage, despite Gracehill Golf Club and the Hedges Hotel offering free car parking nearby.

“It is vitally important that local authorities come up with a strategy to maintain the long-term survival of the Hedges because if not, the site could be gone for good.

“It’s a shame as it’s one of the most popular destinations on the North Coast and attracts thousands of visitors each year.”

The long-running saga about closing the site to vehicle traffic looks set to continue after the news that the safeguarding of the Hedges could come down to a public inquiry.

Causeway Coast and Glens councillors were told that a public inquiry may be the only logical step to preserve the area after four objections were received to Transport NI’s proposals to ban vehicle movement at the tourist attraction.

Councillor Joan Baird OBE, the Mayor of the Council believes the trees are at a ‘high risk of destruction.’

She said: “The trees at the Dark Hedges are at a high risk of destruction due to people parking on the grass verges and destroying the root structures.

“The Dark Hedges Preservation Trust must take responsibility for the delays in addressing the problem.

“Transport NI plan to restrict usage of the Bregagh Road, but there are objectors, and under law this must go to a public inquiry which does take time.

“The problem with parking at the Hotel is that pedestrians still have to cross the Ballinlea Road to access the trees and this presents road safety issues.

“It is a shame there is no quick fix solution as yet.”

The Dark Hedges Preservation Trust must take responsibility for not addressing the problems faster, Councillor Joan Baird says.

The loss of this iconic site would be a blow to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council who explain that they are ‘working with landowners and Transport Northern Ireland to create a sustainable solution.’

The sad reality is that this beautiful site might not be here for much longer.

Masters 2017: A fairytale victory for Sergio Garcia

After 73 failed attempts to win a major title the Spaniard held his nerve to clinch the Masters at Augusta National.

“I’m not good enough. I don’t have the thing I need to have. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”

It was five years ago that Sergio García made this statement after a poor third round at Augusta ended any hopes that the Spaniard would win a coveted major.

The 37 year-old seemed destined to be a habitual bridesmaid throughout his career, but on Sunday he clinched his dreams by landing the Green Jacket after a play-off hole with Justin Rose.

A young Garcia with his hero, Seve Ballesteros.

It was a fitting scene. On the weekend of his late hero, Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday, the Borriol native conquered his demons by landing the vital blow on the 18th green to win the 81st Masters.

In typical fashion, García made himself and his strong legion of fans go through every emotion as he went toe-to-toe with Olympic champion and one-time major winner, Justin Rose. A bogey at the 10th hole meant the Spaniard trailed his Ryder Cup companion, but a fantastic eagle at 15 levelled the scores after a Rose birdie.

It was gripping television for the viewer right through to the 18th green as both players had birdie opportunities to gain the upper hand. First up was the cool and talented Rose, but as his putt looked destined to find the bottom of the cup, it trickled narrowly wide.

An emotional Garcia after losing to Padraig Harrington in a play-off for the The Open Championship in 2007.

This presented Garcia with the perfect opportunity to seize the moment, but as his putt never looked destined to trouble the hole, it might have conjured memories of the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie, where García also had a putt for victory at the 72nd hole, missed it and then lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.

The drama was to continue as both players – who are also close friends away from the course – were tasked with a tense tee-shot in the play-off. García was the one whose drive found the fairway while Rose’s ball ricocheted off a tree and came to rest in the pine needles, in front of a pine cone. Rose’s pitch landed short of the green while García stuck his approach to 12 feet.

The Spaniard celebrates after securing his first major title.

Once Rose tapped in for bogey, the spotlight belonged to the popular Spaniard who sunk his birdie putt and fell to his knees after realising the significance of his achievement.

“Obviously, this is something I wanted to do for a long time,” García said,

“But, you know, it never felt like a horror movie. It felt like a little bit of a drama, but obviously with a happy ending.”

A happy ending indeed for one of golf’s fantastic talents.

Harkin: ‘I can’t wait for the cup final’

COLERAINE midfielder Ciaron Harkin speaks to Jonathan McNabb ahead of tomorrow’s Irish Cup final against Linfield…

Ciaron Harkin admits he is looking forward to ‘a great experience’ when he faces Linfield in tomorrow’s Irish Cup final (KO 2:30pm).

The tireless midfielder joined the Bannsiders in January following a spell with Institute and hopes he can bring the trophy back to the Ballycastle Road for the sixth time in the club’s history.

The 20-year-old also revealed he nearly missed out on the run to the final as he could have been cup tied if he played for Institute in the 4th round of the competition.

Listen to the video below:

Rise in attacks in Northern Ireland’s fast food outlets

Fast food outlets in Northern Ireland see hundreds of crimes every year according to recent police records published in the Irish News.

Of the 2,300 attacks in fast food outlets in the north over the past three years half have been of a violent nature.

Topping the list was the city centre branch of McDonalds, 200 offences have been committed there during that time.

It was this outlet that saw the stabbing of a young boxer from West Belfast Caoimhin Hynes (20) queuing  for food after a night out just a few weeks ago.

The figures also show that crimes at fast food outlets are on the increase with 820 crimes committed last year, compared with 758 the year before.

Violent crimes is where the really worry is though with an increase to 394 from 2015’s figure of 305.

SDLP Councillor for Belfast City Council, Paul McCusker, has worked on the streets for the past few years with his charity, Homeless Aware.

He has been shocked by the sights that he has seen on Belfast streets late at night.

He has blamed the rise in drug presence on the streets for the “exponential” rise in violent crime, particularly those involving knives.

I spoke to him about why he felt that rise has occurred and what needs to be done in order to prevent it.