President calls for help for 'pockets of despair'
President calls for help for 'pockets of despair'

The Irish President, Mrs Mary McAleese, has spoken out following the recent spate of suicides in her native Republican Ardoyne in north Belfast.

Asked about the suicides, she spoke of "the huge level of dysfunction" in northern communities still trapped by sectarianism and waiting to feel the effect of the so-called "peace dividend".

She says there is much still to be done to rescue "pockets of despair" untouched by changing political relationships and transformed political landscapes.

"I don't think it takes rocket science to work out what the problems there are. Ardoyne is one of those places that is still waiting ... to see the effect of what all the rest of us call the peace dividend. For many of the people who live there, whether they are Catholic or Protestant, loyalist or republican ... they are dealing with endemic unemployment, which has been endemic for generations ... they are dealing with right-up-front-in-your-face everyday sectarianism; they are dealing with streets that aren't safe, literally from 100 yards to the next; they are dealing with the presence of paramilitarism, which I understand was a factor certainly in the more recent deaths... and the consequences almost of policing by paramilitaries.

"There is a huge level of dysfunction in which it must be very difficult for young people to feel hope in the future, to feel a sense of joy, a sense of liberation." This must be particularly so for young people who dropped out of school early and who were particularly vulnerable.

When she was aksed why despair should be a problem following the end of conflict, she said: "Insofar as I can intuit any kind of answer, I think it has a lot to do with the pace at which people are moving in terms of the peace dividend . . . It's not evenly distributed in terms of its benign effect."


The peace dividend was not apparent again yesterday as over 800 jobs were lost in the space of 24 hours with the announcements that a car components firm in east Belfast and a textiles firm in County Tyrone are to close.

The Japanese firm TK-ECC in Dundonald in east Belfast announced yesterday that it is to shut down with the loss of 550 jobs. The company shocked staff with a brief statement which said the decision was forced by its shareholders' refusal to provide further finance.

TK-ECC is situated on the outskirts of east Belfast, a predominately unionist area.

Herdman's has been the main employer in the nationalist Sion Mills of County Tyrone area since 1835, and even remained in operation during the Famine.

Last year it paid off 160 workers. It said it could no longer sustain mounting losses.

It is expected that production will be transferred to South Africa where Herdman's has opened a plant.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Mr Ivan Barr described the closure as "devastating", stating that the general district around Strabane would be badly hit by the job losses.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News