Saturday, August 27, 2005

Organ donation: The gift of life

Carrying a donor card is a great start, but to be a registered organ donor you need to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Today more than 6,000 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant that could save or dramatically improve their life. Most are waiting for a kidney, others for a heart, lung or liver transplant. But less than 3,000 transplants are carried out each year.
Transplants are one of the most miraculous achievements of modern medicine. But they depend entirely on the generosity of donors and their families who are willing to make this life-saving gift to others.

Desperate need for more donors

There is a desperate need for more donors. Last year more than 400 people died while waiting for a transplant. One in ten people waiting for a heart transplant will die and many others will lose their lives before they even get on to the waiting list.
The more people who pledge to donate their organs after their death, the more people stand to benefit. By choosing to join the NHS Organ Donor Register you could help make sure life goes on.

Organ Donor Line

If you've not signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, you can do so by calling the NHS Organ Donor Line: 0845 60 60 400
Lines open: 07:00-23:00 (closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day)

The NHS Organ Donor Register is a national, confidential list of people who are willing to become donors after their death. It can be quickly accessed to see whether an individual has registered a willingness to be an organ donor. It can literally be a life-saver. So that in the event of your death there's a chance that your organs could help someone else to live.
It is not known exactly how many people's organs could have been used to save life if only they and their families had given consent.

Putting your name on the NHS Organ Donor Register makes everyone aware of your wishes and makes it easier for them to agree to your donation.
Millions of people carry donor cards or are on the register. Join them. The easiest way is to join on-line.

You can also join the register when you apply for a driving licence, register with a new GP or apply for a new passport. Not sure whether you are already on the register? Sign up anyway, or check by writing to:

The NHS Organ Donor RegisterUK Transplant

When you register it is important that you tell those closest to you about your decision. Even if your name is on the register, the person closest to you in life will be asked to confirm that you had not changed your mind. Putting your name on the register demonstrates your consent to the use of your organs for transplantation.

Facing up to the death of a loved one is hard. Having to make a decision about organ donation, unsure what that person would have wanted can cause extra pain.
Talk to your family now to make sure they know what you want.

Yes, I want to register as a donor

You can also carry a donor card if you wish, and you can find these in leaflets in doctors' surgeries or by ringing the Organ Donor Line on 0845 60 60 400 between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
Calls are charged at local rate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

MPH Belfast Rally Report

"I'm here because it’s about time my generation actually took some action rather than watching things on TV and thinking 'isn't that awful?' " Zoe Anderson, 26, East Belfast"

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up. Make Poverty History in 2005. Make History in 2005. Then we can all stand with our heads held high.... Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."
Nelson Mandela

Thousands of people braved the changeable Belfast weather on Saturday 4th June to register their support for the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign at a rally organized by the NI coalition at Customs House Square, Belfast. The Rally was supported by an array of Community groups, Church leaders, Trade Unions, Aid agencies, students, Sports People and concerned individuals. Celebrity supporters of the campaign and musicians such as Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Brian Houston and Talking Drum shared a platform with a broad cross-section of civil society in what proved to be the biggest rally on global poverty in Northern Ireland in recent memory.

Deborah Doherty, a spokesperson for the coalition said, “We were delighted to see a really wide range of people turn up today- there were a few thousand here. We had a colourful event- N. Ireland has truly joined the global campaign to send a strong message to Tony Blair and G8 leaders- do something in July to cancel world debt.”

People from all backgrounds and walks of life showed up at the rally at Laganside’s new development in Custom House Square. A collection of colourful banners from Amnesty, Students Against Poverty and a host of other groups added to the carnival atmosphere.

Gary Lightbody, Lead Singer of Snow Patrol, addressing the large crowd stated, “We've been heavily involved in Make Poverty History for the past year. We still see poverty still happening - you can't believe that it's still the same situation 20 years later since Live Aid. The reason is these countries are being crushed under the weight of debt. There is a solution and it's a simple one. We have to take responsibility. Our governments have to say ‘no more’. We can't go on like this. As a generation, we have to stand up and say ‘no more’. When our leaders go into the G8 summit, they have to know the whole world is demanding they pay attention to Africa and all the Third World countries.”

The rally attracted broad cross community support for the aims of MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY,

Margaret Ward, Women's Support Network said of the day "The Women's Support Network came today to support the aims of Make Poverty History because it is often women who face the harsh realities of raising families in extreme poverty. The eradication of poverty is linked to the empowerment of women and women in Northern Ireland want our voices to be heard"

"I'm here today because I think those of us who live in wealthy countries have a moral responsibility to help people in the developing world. We can't just sit back and let children die unnecessarily" Anna Lo. Chinese Welfare Association

"I'm here because it’s about time my generation actually took some action rather than watching things on TV and thinking 'isn't that awful?' " Zoe Anderson, 26, East Belfast"

We came along with our families because we think its important that we teach our children to look beyond their own lives and develop empathy with children and young people from other countries who are much less well of than they are." Anne and Hugh Moore, parents of three children, North Belfast.

"Today's older generation have had to endure ongoing poverty and discrimination and they want to show solidarity with older people across the globe who will continue to live in poverty if the aims of Make Poverty History are not met." Seamus Lynch, Help the Aged.

“Here at the East Belfast Community Development Association we deal with poverty and exclusion everyday. Of course the nature and scale of the poverty is different but the human experience is the same. We have come here to stand in solidarity with people in developing countries and to send a message to the G8 that says enough is enough" Michael Briggs, Director, East Belfast Community Development Association.

The event was addressed by a broad cross-section of Church leaders, Gary and Nathan from the Bangor band, Snow Patrol, and Binnie Mwatasungula, a representative from the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in N. Malawi who moved the large crowd as he spoke of the reality of living with Poverty. Binnie’s words brought a hushed silence as he related his experiences of a country where 49% living in rural areas have no access to clean water. The crowd was entertained by Brian Houston and his band, Talking drum and compered by BBCs David 'Rigsy' O'Reilly.

For more information on the campaign visit our website

MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY NI is a broad coalition made up of : Oxfam ,Trocaire, Christian Aid, Street Seen, NIPSA, NICVA, Help The Aged , War On Want, Save The Children, Concern, C of I Bishops Appeal, Tear Fund, Comhlamh, ARN, Send My Friend to School, QUB Campaigning Group, ICTU

Threshold warns of Ireland's new slum danger

The Government must prevent the creation of modern-day slums by radically improving living conditions in private rental accommodation, it was recently claimed .

Housing charity Threshold said its 2004 Annual Report, launched in Dublin, showed the number of calls from people living in unfit accommodation had risen by more than a third last year.
Conditions people were reporting included problems with hot and cold running water, mould growing on walls, vermin infestations and living in windowless rooms, the charity said. Threshold also claimed local authorities were failing in their duty to inspect privately-rented accommodation, with only 7,232 of an estimated 150,000 dwellings checked by inspectors.

According to the report, almost 30% of inspected properties were found to be falling below minimum standards, but legal action was only taken in four cases. Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of Threshold, said the wrong message was being sent out to landlords and called for local authorities to step up inspections, prosecute more cases and name and shame those found guilty of breaches of the law.
“The introduction of the new Residential Tenancies Act last year has greatly improved tenants rights in the private rented sector,” she said.“But the Government must now copper-fasten this progress by tackling the quality of accommodation, particularly at the lower end of the market.“It is totally unacceptable that people are forced to live in windowless flats, sleep in bedrooms covered in mildew or make do without hot running water.“We also have to ask is it acceptable that in this day and age people are expected to live in one room with a toilet opening off it, and that room is their kitchen, living room, dining room and their bedroom?”Ms Hayden called for the Government to ensure existing standards were enforced and to also introduce new standards which reflected current accepted living standards.

Sh also warned that the introduction of apartment-style living in inner cities did not cater for families who were being housed in them. Much of the accommodation was being let to rent supplement tenants which resulted in high concentrations of poverty, she said. “Too few apartments are designed with children in mind – living spaces are cramped with no play or study areas and often there is nowhere to dry clothes or to store children’s toys and bikes. “Unfortunately while we are following a European model of apartment dwelling, we are not following the standards of amenities that make communal living possible,” she said.“The Government needs to act urgently to make sure we are not putting in place slum clearance programmes like the Ireland of the 1930s and 1940s in the Ireland of 2010,” she said.

Threshold saw an increase in use of its services last year, with a total of 20,601 people coming to the charity for help.The return of deposits was a growing problem for tenants, and advice workers dealt with 44% more cases last year than in 2003.The number of calls about illegal evictions also grew by 41% to 271 cases.But Threshold’s Access Unit – which helps homeless people into rented accommodation – completed its second successful year, helping 127 people, including children, into a home.

Davy Carlin: 'Fill Up My Senses'

Over the last few days of wonderful weather my partner and I who both hold a growing and keen interest in the environment and nature, have enjoyed our local facilities. With a ten-minute walk from our home we can sit on the side of a beautiful mountain, ‘our mountain’ {Black Mountain} and overlook the city of Belfast.

With that my partner sketches while I pen or type articles. This with the memories of our immediate childhoods just a glance away, mine having been the Murph {Ballymurphy}, while Marie’s being the Turf {Turf Lodge} as we look from Black mountain upon such. We can now trek and ramble to the top of the mountain and beyond, {now opened} and take in one of its nature trails. This while breathing in not only the fresh air, but also the splendid scenery which of course stretches over Belfast to the opposite mountains, and to the loch and sea beyond. The array of wildlife, birds, flowers, shrubbery is bountiful as you make your way up past beautiful white horses grazing in the fields. Each aspect of nature I am finding has its own independent smell and feel of touch, and each eatable berry, its own wild flavour.Yet having hauled our foldable chairs up with us, and although with the heat beating down in the hottest day of the year, we where ‘chilled’ and contended, as we breathed in the scenery, with a chat and a good book in hand – and of course an amply filled Cool box. This while keeping an eye on our wee dog who had encountered a few new friends in the form of colourful butterflies and birds which I am just beginning to put names to, as I trawl though wildlife books. In fact I have found myself stating things I would not have thought myself stating years ago such as, ‘isn’t that flower beautiful’, isn’t that tree magnificent’, isn’t that sky amazing’’ this scenery needs no words’ etc. Yet in a sense I find it hard to explain, but I feel I am ‘drawn’ to such things which where once completely unacknowledged by oneself. And indeed this has intensified as I work to finish my book about growing up in West Belfast and that of my recent activism. In fact such provides both inspiration and comfort because as I have found that as my senses become more alive and aware, then in a differing but similar sense, so do I {if persons can understand what I mean} -------------

Another five minutes and a lazy dander from our door in another direction we are inside a large open park, which holds a huge array of tended flowerbeds and shrubbery. The park also hosts a leisure centre, various pitches, play areas, bowling greens, outdoor basket ball and bike courses as well as a river lined with magnificent trees which run through it.In the evening my Partner and I frequently take a jog around the top pitch which on a summers evening is a beautiful experience in itself. On one side of the pitch one can look upon Belfast as the lights come on around the city, while on the other side one can look upon Black Mountain as the sun sets behind it. The array of colours, purple, lilac orange, yellow, red etc when the sun is setting behind the ‘Blackness’ of our mountain in all its glory, is simply amazing on these summer evenings At the bottom of our park is an award winning {UNESCO} nature reserve. Within it one can find many varieties of wildlife settled around the lake, or on the island in the middle of it, from swans to other families of various water birds busily getting on with their tasks. While on the other hand when walking around its surrounding greenery and bog meadows you can explore the numerous types of foliage abundant with many forms of life - some of which I had not been aware having even existed. For example blue and lilac luminous flies that hover above the bog meadows are a wonderment in themselves, before one even attempts to study their ‘work patterns’ Yet either sitting on our chairs over looking the lake, or simply walking around the reserve talking about life, the world, and why and how it needs changed. We are always given extra inspiration by such tranquil surroundings – even though being amongst a frenzy of activity that often had went unacknowledged to oneself. The nature reserve is a place where one can just chill out and take in the pleasure of nature static or in motion - or to actively study it closer at hand. Indeed such is our regularity there, that the swans now feed on the titbits out of our hands while other specific birds at times land on our arms or shoulders.

Even back at our home {which has enclosed garden at the front} an occasional seagull now makes its way lazily along at times in early morning to find titbits. Again sometimes we just chill in the garden to the neighbourness of hello Davy, hello Marie from all who pass, whatever the age. This with ourselves and the dog under the shade of the trees if the sun gets to hot, but usually basking in it – but still, as ever, under the watchful and inspirational shadow of Black Mountain which recalls aspects of both our childhoods like many from the surrounding area. Indeed even today when I have friends from elsewhere visiting, the view driving up the Springfield road and seeing Black mountain coming into view always rise’s comments of admiration from whomever views it. --------

Yet it is not only a situation where I have realised in a real way my senses in respect to nature, but in tandem with this I have found a growing interest in structures, architecture and history {in an artistic and thoughtful sense} ------. So across the road from the reserve’s entrance is, as stated, the Falls Park, while on each side of the road holds cemeteries, These cemeteries indeed hold an immense history and both of us {without seeming morbid} finding pleasure and intrigue touring them through seeing and discovering a whole local history emerging. Again much of what was hidden amongst overgrowth is now starting to be unveiled due to work being done. Seeing some of the masonry and the monuments from yesteryear tells of yet other stories. Over time I have found that if one lifts their heads above head level another whole history emerges through the architecture and buildings all around and above us. Indeed as with nature and the environment my interest has been drawn to such Since my late teens I have been fortunate enough to having been able to travel a lot. Indeed I have travelled to many countries in the world, including to virtually every ‘Party spot’ in Western Europe since then.

Yet again such has shifted and Marie and my travels now incorporate all those aspects as raised above. Over the last decade or so my whole outlook on life, my thoughts and understanding of the world have changed to an extent that those that I had known then would no longer {in a sense} know me now. It is said that people change; people mellow, as they grow older. Yet I have changed, although not mellowed, as there is a fire that burns ever stronger as a Revolutionary Socialist within my heart and within my mind.I had once thought though that such feelings of appreciation for such things where deemed ‘unmanly’ amongst my peer groups. Indeed at best I may have been isolated as a tree hugging hippie or may even have been warranted a kicking in youth {by some} if I had went around smelling flowers or sitting in admiration watching the sun set at the height of the conflict. Anyways, apart from that such things where the furthest from my mind and only over time have I been drawn to them, or indeed them to me.Yet in my own understanding - ever developing - there is no contradiction of being an outspoken Revolutionary and being outspoken in the appreciation of such aspects of nature. Indeed I believe to be a Revolutionary Socialist one should be at the forefront in the defence of the environment and all that goes with it.
As my interest develops and indeed as it is drawn to nature, to the environment, to architecture, to structures, to monuments and ‘artistic’ history I feel it is part of me that was always there but has been long held back. This like so many other things pushed to the back of the mind, like many other people, during those childhood and youth days living within the war.
On this issue though, my appreciation grows. And now when sitting on Black Mountain or when focusing on the hive of plant, bird and insect activity in the nature reserve with my partner, or when looking upon wondrous architecture or upon historical monuments - my senses come alive.

And with it brings both a feeling of being alive and a certain sense of freedom never before felt.Indeed when I am immersed in such it creates a growing feeling of being able to breathe – I mean – to now really really being able to breathe, from the tip of my toe to the very core of my mind. .

'Terri Hooley: The Day the Music died'

...A tribute to John Peel

I first met John Peel in the late sixties when he walked into the offices of “Release” in London with boxes full of records. The boxes were of promotional discs from record companies he would not play on his show; he was donating them to the charity in the hope that they could make a little money from them.

In 1967 Radio one was set up to as part of the government’s war against the dozens of pirate radio stations broadcasting from ships around the British Isles.

John had a show called The Perfumed Garden (playing hippie music) on Radio London. In a Radical change in policy the BBC recruited many of the pirate disc jockeys like Tony Blackburn, Johnny Walker and John Peel. Nobody would have ever predicted back then that John Peel (real name John Ravenscroft) would outlast all the others.

Over the years many a head of Radio One wanted to get rid of him but he survived every DJ cull. His nightly show was to become essential listening for generations of young and not so young people, turning them on to every type of music; often in styles the listener had never thought that she or he would find appealing.

The John Peel Show was to become a national institution and he never believed he would end up being a pensioner presenter.

The seventies were a horrendous period in the history of Northern Ireland and many people stayed at home at night, rather than venture out. Consequently, like many others, part of my social ritual would be the John Peel show, through the medium of which I was guaranteed to hear all the new music first.

By 1976 I was selling records from my back bedroom and in 1977 I opened “Good Vibrations” record shop on first-floor premises in Great Victoria Street, Belfast, at precisely the time punk was giving the music industry a good kick up the ass. Punk to me was my hippie revenge, and I went to a gig featuring Rudi and The Outcasts in The Pound Club. That was the night that the Good Vibrations label was formed with Rudi being my first signing.

The scene reminded me of my youth when I first started to go to see bands playing R ‘n B music in the sixties.

That period had started as a small underground thing and soon became a beat boom explosion. Then, we had dozens of bands, with plenty of clubs to play in.

Very few of the bands ever got the chance to make a record in those days. It took THEM, featuring the incredible Van Morrison, to really make it and put Belfast on the international musical map.

Belfast had been ignored throughout “the troubles” and many musicians had left the country. Many of the old clubs and dance halls closed for one reason or another, mainly through lack of customers too frightened to come into the city centre.

But the times were a-changing and unlike the groups of the sixties (who always seemed to be waiting for some fat cat from London to sign them up) “Stiff Little Fingers” were putting out their own records like “Suspect Device” and demanding an “Alternative Ulster”

It was a time of DIY. Local fanzines were spreading the gospel, telling the world that something was happening here other than bombs and killings.

John Peel was one of the few people to champion the new music of the province and when I put out the fourth single on the label it was to change his life. “Teenage Kicks” by Derry band The Undertones was the first record in the history of the BBC to be played twice in a row and remained his all time favourite record.

Four days after he played it the band got signed up to Sire records. When John made his first pilgrimage to Good Vibes, he couldn’t believe that our offices were what he described as “a dinky toy telephone booth”.
Many of our bands got to go to London and do sessions for his show, and go on to better things.

When the label was in trouble and we had a big concert in the Ulster Hall John flew over to be with us, and got a standing ovation. If he stayed with my mother-in-law, he would send her a bunch of flowers. And if he heard that I was coming over to England he would invite me down to Peel Acres or round to the show. A few times he changed the show to include a new record that I had just discovered.

One night out drinking with my old mate Shane MaGowan, he found out that I was going down to stay with John. A bootlegger friend of Shane’s offered me £5.000 to steal a radio session tape from John’s house.

When I arrived John told me I was sleeping in the bed amongst his record collection. I asked him where the tape was “he said right beside the bed, why the interest?” When I told him how much I was offered to steal it, he laughed and said, “It wasn’t enough”.

John used to tell me off for treating him like a rock star, but to me he was bigger than most rock stars. He was a rare breed amongst radio DJs the genuine article and just the same lovable man on radio and off.
He truly was a legend in his own lifetime and he could never be replaced.
John thanks for all the great music and everything, we are all going to miss you.
When I think of you there will always be a tear in my beer.

The resistible rise of racism in NI

More than five racist or homophobic attacks take place in Belfast every week, according to recent figures.

Attacks for example in north Belfast doubled between April and September this year Over the 183-day period there were 129 so-called hate crimes recorded throughout the city. In the previous year, some 226 racial incidents were recorded across Northern Ireland, resulting to date in five known prosecutions. In May, the Northern Ireland Affairs committee said police figures were underestimating "hate crime" levels by a "considerable margin" because victims were failing to report attacks.

These attacks will continue until we send a loud and clear message to those orchestrating and carrying out these attacks that we will not tolerate this behaviour. The ARN (Anti Racism Network) have been to the fore in opposing any racist attacks or behaviour
recently over 2,000 people attended a rally in Belfast's city centre, Saturday 30 October, calling for an end to racism. Marchers gathered outside the City Hall on Saturday to make a stand against race hate. The event was organised by the Anti-Racism Network and the Chinese Welfare Association under the slogan 'No Excuses'.

Speakers from the Chinese, Muslim and gay communities called for the government to do more to stop attacks against them. The organisers of the march said it was an opportunity for people to stand together to show their utter rejection of race hate. They also wanted to reassure members of ethnic minorities that they had support and solidarity. The main rally began at the University of Ulster's Art College and proceeded to City Hall. Feeder parades began in west Belfast at Roden Street, and in the south of the city at Equality House, Shaftesbury Square.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission strongly endorsed the rally. The commission's head of legal services, policy and research, Ciaran O Maolain, said: "Racism in Northern Ireland is not a new phenomenon, but the commission is especially concerned at the increase in racist attacks and other manifestations of intolerance in Belfast, Armagh, Dungannon, Ballymena and elsewhere. The recent attacks on gay people in Derry are equally abhorrent." He said he wanted to see policing resources directed at protecting minorities and bringing to justice those behind the recent attacks. "It is worrying that there have been only a handful of prosecutions for hate crimes which are happening at the rate of at least 300 per year," Mr O Maolain said.
Stephen Alexander of the ARN said it was encouraging so many people had come out to support the rally "Racist attacks have appalled people right across Northern Ireland, and their support for this rally clearly demonstrated that racism is something we don’t want here. The theme for the rally was `No Excuses`, he said, because people were fed up hearing lame justifications for racist behaviour. Myths about `immigrants taking our jobs` or being `a threat to local culture` are exactly that - stories with no basis in reality," he said.

There was a racist crime reported almost every day in Belfast and new police figures made "very worrying reading", he added. "Sadly, it’s not uncommon for some people to unfairly blame ethnic minorities for deprivation in their area. It is wrong to scapegoat ethnic minorities for the failures in our society that existed long before their arrival,"
Sadly after the rally there were further racist attacks in the West and the North of our city. Hospital workers from the Filipino community were targeted in the latest racist attacks in north Belfast.

Maria Maglano, who is a nurse at the Mater hospital in Belfast, said she could not understand why the families had been targeted.
"I've been here for more than three years and I never experienced this (before)," she said.
The ARN organised community responses in the areas where the racist attacks occurred, hundreds of people attended the vigils that were called within a day of each of the attacks. Politicians from across the political spectrum roundly condemned the attacks.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said there was no excuse for such behaviour.
"The people behind this kind of activity need to realise that they will achieve absolutely nothing except the contempt of decent law-abiding people," he said.
Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Ekin said it was the latest in a long line of attacks against the Filipino community.
"Those behind this attack are a tiny minority who represent no-one," he said.
"They certainly do not represent the vast majority of the people of the area who are outraged that this has happened."

SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness said it was a "disturbing and deplorable act which only served to intimidate the Filipino and Chinese families".
"The families who were subjected to this appalling racial abuse have lived peacefully in the area for some time. It is horrifying to think that their peace of mind has been disturbed in this way."

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly claimed loyalist paramilitaries were trying to "export" racism from the Donegall Road area to north Belfast.
"I am calling on those with influence in the loyalist community to do whatever is in their power to stop these attacks," he said.

"To stand by and say nothing is as the equivalent to condoning racism."
Chairman of the ARN Davy Carlin told Street Seen: "Sadly the attacks we hear about through the media are just the tip of the iceberg. The ARN is concerned at how racist attacks are becoming more violent and spreading to places with no history of racist violence." ‘’Therefore we need to stand shoulder to shoulder within communities against these attacks and more especially to show solidarity with the victims of them’.’

An attack on one is an attack on all so we at Street Seen encourage people to contact the ARN and show that Racism will not be tolerated in any way in our society.

To Contact the ARN in your local area email:

The Continuing saga of North Street Arcade, Belfast


Recently there was the launch of alternative plans for the Cathedral Quarter drawn up by Arts and Heritage groups. The launch received a fair amount of media coverage, with the main spokesperson being Martin Lynch. The launch was well attended by people from the Cathedral Quarter. Mr A Elliott turned up as representative of Ewarts PLC the property developers. Ewarts own North Street Arcade and a lot of other buildings in the area. In there plans for the massive redevelopment of the area that they wanted to knock down part of the Arcade. Just so you would be able to get to their new multi storey car park. The Friends Of North Street Arcade were one of the groups who did not get an invite, or were even aware the event was taking place. They were very sorry to have missed having a chat with Mr Elliott and hope to have a meeting with him in the near future.

This group started out as three people who wanted to have a permanent monument or wall mural erected in memory of the arcade. Just to remind people that the arcade was burnt down by arsonists using Blast Incendiary Devices on Saturday 17th April 2004, during the ceasefire. The Arcade was built in 1932 and was one of the finest examples of Art Deco in Ireland.

In the last few months the group has grown to twenty- seven members and they hope to be opening their own office next year. Like the former tenants of the arcade, the group consists of an eclectic group of people from all walks of life: everything from punks to civil servants. Its chairman is Colin Wilson a deeply committed Christian and ecologist. The one thing that they all have in common is the desire to try to keep the spirit of the arcade alive.
They also would like to see the criminals responsible for the burning down of the Arcade brought to justice as soon as possible. They are very secretive about their future plans, but do promise something special to mark the first anniversary of the fire.

One of the original aims was to have parties; nights where everyone from the arcade and their friends could get together to swap news etc. The first one was called “Burnt Out But Still Smokin’” a Sixties & Seventies night. They had six DJ’s and the Front Page donated twenty-four bottles of wine. The hundreds of invitations were everywhere and said No Arsonists or Property Developers Allowed In. The second one was called “Solidarity With The People Who Were Burnt Out”. Songclub Ernesto Che Guevara an eight piece socialist band from Dresden, Germany, played. The eight-piece band sang in eight different languages. As the band played, someone painted slogans on the new shutters that covered up the existing graffiti. The third party was called “Burnt Out But Still Singing”, another fantastic success with twelve singer songwriters. The next is the “Burnt Out But Still Rocking” party in THE JOHN HEWITT, Donegal Street on the 18th November. The bands are VELMA and TIN POT OPERATION two of the best up and coming indie bands around. All the parties are free. The next one will probably be called First Christmas Burnt Out. In the New Year the group will be organising fund raising gigs.

For the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes Night) they put up a big sign with the outline
of a man hanging on a rope. The slogan was HANG THE ARSONISTS and the people who
pay them. Patrons of the John Hewitt will tell you that tourists loved to get their photo’s taken beside it. Unfortunately it was taken down in the early hours of Saturday 13th by persons unknown. Another one is planned for December this time its. MAKE MY CHRISTMAS - HANG THE ARSONISTS.

For some reason the developers had a change of heart about their plans to build their multi storey car park. They now want to give a donation to The Cathedral Quarter Festival who lost their offices in the fire. Maybe they would like to give a donation to the many businesses
who lost everything, with no compensation from anyone? At one time they were going to sue over an article in The Sculptor arts magazine, but we haven’t heard any more about that. The police inquiry into the fire has yet to result in charges being laid. Sooner or later the law must change so that people just can’t get away with burning down this country’s heritage. They cannot be allowed to get away with it again and again.

There are now plans to redevelop the Smithfield area. By a new group calling themselves Smithfield Central Ltd. But to some of us they a not so new, its just the name is different.
And guess what there will be loads more car parking spaces. Are these people taking the piss or what? Eamon McCann has already flattened the historic Elephant Bar. He was unavailable for comment, because he was away in his house in Italy. Is nobody going to stand up to these people? The Belfast City Centre cannot be just several large shopping centres. Watch out traders in Smithfield market the developers are on their way. But when
They arrive at the gates of heaven they won’t be asked how much they saved? But how much they gave and then are told to go to hell.

Another listed building the Queens Building in Royal Avenue was also a target for arsonists recently. Fat cats get fatter, and who put the residents of North Street Arcade out in the cold? And does anybody really care.

Maybe its time we got some real politicians in the City Hall before they turn it into a shopping mall.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Half of the State's prisoners have been homeless

A major report on the Irish prison system has shown that half of the State's prisoners have a history of homelessness, and that significant numbers of inmates are chronic drug-abusers who have been diagnosed as psychiatrically ill.

One in four inmates in Irish prisons were homeless when sent to prison and more than 80 per cent of these were using heroin and/or cocaine on committal, according to the report by the Department of Justice.

It confirms that disadvantaged petty repeat offenders, and not serious criminals, make up a significant portion of the prison .

The report raises doubts about the effectiveness of the judiciary's use of short prison sentences.
Its authors recommend that community-based sanctions be more fully developed, saying imprisonment should be used only as a last resort for many offenders.

The study, which involved examining the records of just over 10,000 individuals before the courts or in prison, also says that the youth justice system is having virtually no impact on helping young people escape a life of crime.

Half of the minors who served sentences in Trinity House detention centre, Lusk, Co Dublin, ended end up in St Patrick's Institution or an adult prison within six to 18 months of being released from Trinity House. While 90 per cent of the 22-strong surveyed group had reoffended within the same period.

The main findings of the report are :

25 per cent of a 280-strong sample group of prisoners interviewed were homeless on committal to prison and 54 per cent had been homeless at some time.

One-third of female inmates were homeless on committal to prison.

90 per cent of the prisoners homeless on committal were drug users, with the majority reporting serious drug problems.Some 82 per cent were heroin users, 82 per cent cocaine users and 91 per cent cannabis users.

Of the 25 per cent of the 3,200 prison population who were homeless on committal, one in three had been previously diagnosed with a mental illness and two in three had spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

Of those homeless on committal, 42 per cent were sleeping rough before prison mainly because of the poor condition of emergency hostels and the availability of drugs in such accommodation.

The report is titled: A Study of the Number, Profile and Progression Routes of Homeless Persons Before the Court and in Custody (2005).
It was funded by the Department of Justice and commissioned by the Probation and Welfare Service.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Social and Educational Research, Dublin Institute of Technology, by a team led by the report's authors, Dr Mairéad Seymour and Liza Costello.
A cycle of entrenched recidivism is identified in the report, with 59 per cent of homeless inmates stating they had been arrested at least 20 times in the five years before being sent to prison.
Some 78 per cent of those homeless on committal had spent more than two years in prison during their lives, with 54 per cent having spent five years or more in jail.
Despite these findings, the report's authors found the vast majority of homeless inmates were guilty of what they termed offences "not of a serious nature".

Over a six-week review period in mid-2003 the most common charges brought against homeless people in Dublin District Court were: intoxication in a public place, 30 per cent; threatening behaviour, 24 per cent; theft, 21 per cent; failure to appear in court, 15 per cent; begging, 6 per cent.

While the circuit courts deal with more serious offences, just 18 cases of homeless people appeared before those courts in the same six-week period.