Ardoyne seen in distress following suicides
Ardoyne seen in distress following suicides

Some 18 people have taken their own lives in the nationalist enclave of Ardoyne since Christmas, two in the past week alone.

Father Aidan Troy of the Holy Cross parish said that paramilitary activity such as punishment beatings, local deprivation and a sense of hopelessness were contributing to the growing crisis.

Bernard Cairns was found by Father Troy and a curate hanging from scaffolding at Holy Cross Church on Saturday. The discovery was made shortly after the funeral of Mr Cairns's best friend, Anthony O'Neill also 18, who took his life last week. Both had suffered paramilitary "punishment attacks" by the INLA paramilitaries in response to alleged anti-social activities. It is believed that the subsequent loss of self-esteem -- already low in the deprived community following the cessation of armed struggle -- -- had pushed the boys over the edge.

"Young Anthony O'Neill, whom I buried on Saturday, had been put down a manhole as a punishment," Father Troy said last night. "Mr Cairns had been shot in 2002 by the INLA. Everyone who seems to have been punished has died."

There have been calls for calm after intense and subjective media coverage over the deaths, amid fears that it could encourage the wave of suicides to continue.

A spokesman for the Irish Republican Socialist Party, which is linked to the INLA, denied the organisation was in any way responsible for the deaths of the two teenagers.

According to the Association of Suicidology, there were some 140 deaths by suicide in the North in the past 12 months. Some 35 of these were under the age of 35, many of them teenagers.

Community workers, health professionals, clergy and political representatives have taken part in a public forum in Ardoyne to agree an urgent response to the problem.

It has been agreed to open a room in a community centre as a drop-in facility, with professional counselling services available both on a one-to-one basis and by telephone.

It is understood this will be an immediate response pending establishment of more long-term facilities for young people.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News