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7 January 1999 Edition

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Belfast and Garvaghy Road community groups link-up

By Mary Maguire

Community groups from nationalist areas of Belfast and the Garvaghy Road have started to work on projects directed at breaking the isolation of the Portadown nationalist residents. On Tuesday, over 30 community groups from Belfast gathered at the Falls Community Council for a working group. The meeting aimed at outlining the areas where they could collaborate most effectively.

Over the next two months, community activists from Belfast will meet up with counterparts on the Garvaghy Road.

Speaking after the meeting, Ciaran Quinn, chairperson of the working group and community worker in the Falls Community Council underlined the need for bridges to be built between the various community based organisations. ``The aim of the various groups and community workers is to share expertise and skills to show solidarity with the residents of the Garvaghy Road. This means not only moral support, but also implementing very concrete and practical projects.''

The projects will focus among others on leisure, sports and arts, as well as more social work, relating to drugs awareness or caring for the older members of the community. One of the many ideas put forward was to twin football teams and organise joint visits.

Dara O'Hagan, Sinn Féin assembly member for Upper Bann, emphasised the needs of the residents of the Garvaghy Road. ``Over ten nationalists have been murdered in Portadown since the early seventies. People on the Garvaghy Road have been under siege for more than four years now. They need to see the goodwill and support of the wider nationalist community from Belfast and the Six Counties to feel they are not on their own. Very practical initiatives are necessary to materialise this support. The community as a whole has been affected. As much as people of all ages need support, there is also no doubt that the children have been traumatised and need to benefit from the projects being currently drawn up''.

Representatives from all the nationalist areas of the North, South, West and East Belfast, including the Short Strand, and the Lower Ormeau community were present at the meeting. ``There is a great affinity between all the marginalised nationalist communities of Belfast and the residents of the Garvaghy Road,'' said Ciaran Quinn. ``Even in areas like the West, there is the legacy of Bombay Street, discrimination and sectarianism. That is why we are we are calling all people to show their solidarity with the people of the Garvaghy Road in whatever way they judge adequate.''

If interested in the project, contact the Falls Community Council, 275-277 Falls Road, Belfast, tel. 01232 20 20 30

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