Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has praised pupils from St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick for their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence.
The school has been working with Women’s Aid on a special project to shine a light on the many issues faced by women and girls in today’s society.Their efforts include the release of a song and video, which is not only raising awareness, but is raising funds to support those affected by domestic abuse.
Speaking after a visit to the school, Michelle O’Neill said: “I was delighted to meet with the girls from St Mary’s in Downpatrick today to hear about their efforts to help tackle the abuse faced by so many women and girls across the community. They are a talented group of young people and their work to raise awareness of these crucial issues is very moving and incredibly powerful.
“The abuse, inequality and misogyny faced by women and girls of all ages is a brutal reality of our society. And, sadly, very many experience violence in their everyday lives. It is a problem that requires everyone’s urgent attention and action.
“As an Executive, we have committed to working together on a strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. But everyone has a responsibility to do all they can to help change attitudes and behaviours. The inspirational pupils at St Mary’s have done just that and I applaud them for the impactful and sensitive way they have dealt with this issue.
“I also commend the school for bringing this subject to the fore and supporting the students to tell the story.”
Given the ongoing Covid-19 measures in place across the schools community, the song was produced by recording individual voices and layering them to create the final version.
The deputy First Minister said: “Our schools and young people have had such a tough time throughout the pandemic. But they have innovated and adapted to do great things. It is wonderful to see how St Mary’s have used a creative approach to deliver this important message.”
St Mary’s Principal, Rosemary McLaughlin, said: “The Board of Governors and staff of St Mary’s High School are very proud of the girls who have used their talents in a positive way to highlight injustice in our society. The efforts they have made will really make a difference to Women’s Aid.
“We are an all girls’ school; and we recognise the need to empower our young women. We want to ensure that the girls know there are organisations out there that can help the victim and the perpetrator. As a school, we discussed the impact that the national lockdown had on women when the message was to stay at home. During lockdown, the increase in domestic abuse and violence against women was well documented by the media. Women’s Aid will now be able to use the much needed resources from this project to support families in the locality.”
Please Give Our Fire Crews Space to do Their Job
The Health Minister Robin Swann has paid tribute to firefighters from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) who are currently tackling a serious blaze in the Mourne Mountains.
NIFRS has declared a major incident and is escalating its operations in the area to bring the fire under control. A large number of resources will be in attendance and NIFRS has appealed to the public not to travel to the area, in particular Trassey Road, Bloody Bridge, Tollymore Forest and Donard Car Park.
The Minister said: “I’ve been shocked and deeply concerned to see the pictures of this devastating fire spreading across the Mournes. I have spoken to NIFRS Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Michael Graham to pay tribute to the crews.
“Our firefighters are working hard in extremely challenging circumstances and I want to thank them on behalf of the community for their bravery and commitment. They are taking huge risks to bring the fire under control and make the area safe.
“I would appeal to the public to help NIFRS in their vital work by avoiding Newcastle and the Mournes and allowing the crews to do their job safely and effectively. They must be able to get fire appliances, equipment and firefighters there as quickly as possible, so please do not drive to the area unnecessarily. The public should also avoid gathering or walking in the area. The ongoing incident in the Mournes is not a tourist attraction nor a photo opportunity. Spending long, tiring hours away from family is part of the sacrifice of our emergency services, who work to keep us all safe. Please help by giving our fire crews the space to do their job.”
Community Hub Makes a Splash In Newcastle
Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots MLA, has visited Greenhill YMCA in Newcastle to see how £500,000 of funding has helped to construct a new community hub.
The funding awarded from DAERA’s Basic Services Scheme under the LEADER element of Priority 6 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020, facilitated the construction of a new community hub comprising of a large flexible community space, break-out area, water safety pool with hydrotherapy functions and shower/changing facilities.
Following a tour of the new building, Minister Poots said: “This is an impressive building and I am delighted that Greenhill YMCA was able to avail of funding from my Department to create this community hub. It is particularly heartwarming and encouraging to hear how the new hub has been able to be used for the needs of young and vulnerable children during the current Covid pandemic.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the community volunteers and councillors in the Northern Ireland Local Action Groups for the time they have given up to progress great projects like Greenhill YMCA. I wish Greenhill every success both now and in the future.”
Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said: “‘As Chair of the Mourne, Gullion and Lecale Rural Development Partnership, I am delighted to see the completion of this impressive facility which has availed of Rural Development funding, provided by DAERA and the European Union. The volunteers involved in the Local Action Group continue to work tirelessly to ensure local decisions made by local representatives, bring high quality projects such as this to fruition.”
Mr Kenny Baxter, Greenhill YMCA thanked the Minister and his Department for the funding. He explained that as their normal activities cannot continue at present due to Covid, the new flexible community space is being used for the needs of young and vulnerable children.