Some youth services to resume in response to NI unrest

Youths hurl petrol bombs during disorder in the Lanark Way area of west Belfast. Credit: Presseye

Youth services that operate in parts of Northern Ireland with heightened community tensions are to resume in response to recent violence on the streets., despite coronavirus restrictions.

Children as young as 12 have been involved in trouble that has flared overall several nights.

In the latest scenes, police were attacked and eight officers were injured in disorder in west Belfast.

A car bursts through the Peace Gates in Lanark Way on Wednesday night Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Crowds gathered on either side of the Lanark Way peace wall gates and missiles, including petrol bombs and fireworks, bottle and masonry, were thrown.

A bus was hijacked and set alight, while a press photographer was also attacked by masked men and had his cameras damaged.

Education Minister Peter Weir has confirmed that youth centres and provisions in area of heightened tensions can maximise the use of their facilities and services with immediate effect.

The provision of educational visits and residential provision, including overnight stays, will also be facilitated when there is “significant risk of harm or criminalisation of children and young people”.

As a society we should all be appalled at witnessing young people and even children being involved in the recent violence on our streets.

Education Minister Peter Weir

“At this time, it is even more important that youth services are able to meet the needs of young people in these areas,” Mr Weir said.

“These measures are intended to safeguard and ensure the welfare of our young people and to divert them from becoming involved in risk taking and dangerous behaviours.”

He added: “I want to commend the Education Authority’s Youth Service and all youth workers for their commitment to helping our young people in these very difficult times.”

People stand next to a fire in a Belfast street during unrest Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Earlier this week, First Minister Arlene Foster blamed “malign and criminal elements” for whipping up young people involved in violent disorder.

The DUP leader said she had spoken to youth workers across Northern Ireland who said part of the issue is the closure of youth centres because of Covid-19 restrictions.