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Belfast City

Belfast Roma Hub Supporting the Roma Community in the City

Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl, joined Forward South Partnership to launch the Belfast Roma Hub, a pioneering project which will support the Roma community in the city.

The hub is supported via the Council’s EU-funded PEACE IV Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).  Match-funding has been provided by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

Forward South Partnership (FSP) is a south Belfast based community led network whose vision is to have a strong and sustainable community infrastructure which contributes to a healthy and prosperous South Belfast.

At the virtual launch today, Forward South Partnership CEO, Briege Arthurs, reflected on how the charity had collaborated with Council in response to the Covid pandemic and spoke of how enormously proud she was of the role that the community and voluntary sector had played throughout the pandemic.

“There are both sad stories and joyful stories but the story that fills me with most hope is that Belfast City Council worked closely with my organisation to set up and quickly deliver a city-wide helpline for the Roma people across the city,” she said.

“The Roma people are one of the most marginalised groups who require very specific support. This was readily available through the good work of foodbank partners, housing rights service and advice organisations whom we brought together to get the best outcome for the Roma people and their families”.

Forward South Partnership has also commissioned a digital record of the lived experiences of the Roma people in Belfast, produced by Denis Long. ‘A Glimpse of 5 lives’ captures the personal views on integration and sense of belonging in Northern Ireland of five Roma/ Romanian residents.

The Lord Mayor welcomed the investment for the Belfast Roma Hub, under the Building Positive Relations element of the council’s PEACE IV Programme, and, acknowledged the impact that this funding will have on sustaining a much needed, well used service designed specifically to support the Roma community in Belfast.

Councillor Nicholl said: “I am committed to the inclusion of every citizen in our city and it gives me great pride to launch the Belfast Roma Hub today along with the suite of opportunities it will offer to empower members of Roma families across Belfast to grow in confidence.

“It is through building strong relationships, characterised by respect and where cultural diversity is celebrated, that people can live, learn and socialise together – free from prejudice, hate and intolerance. Belfast is a great city, a welcoming city and today we welcome this very important service for a very important group of people.”

Highlighting the importance of the hub, Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the SEUPB, said: “Unfortunately, as a result of our shared history, many communities have not yet developed the capacity to deal with diversity and difference, which leads to mistrust and division, and as a result a minority groups can feel marginalised and vulnerable. It also prevents the successful integration of new and host communities, leaving our society worse off as a result. This new support hub will help to address this by creating a safe haven which also offers training and support. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in its creation and look forward to hearing more about its success in the very near future.”

Councillor John Kyle, from the Council’s Shared City Partnership, said: “As Chair of the Shared City Partnership which oversees the implementation of the Belfast PEACE IV Action Plan, I’m delighted to support the launch of the new Roma support hub today. The Action Plan has been designed to be inclusive and provide opportunities for all citizens across the city to be involved in peace building and reconciliation.

“Projects like the hub will provide opportunities to do this – building a shared city for everyone.”

For more information on the Belfast Roma Hub, contact Forward South Partnership on 028 9024 4070. The Roma Helpline number is 07842310477.  

Belfast City

Gala Dinner to mark 50th Anniversary of Famous Rugby Schools Cup Win

Pictured are the Boys’ Model 1971 Rugby School’s Cup winning team.

Belfast Boys’ Model School Bursary fund is set to host a gala dinner to raise essential funds for the educational charity and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school’s Rugby School’s Cup win. 

The dinner, which is being held in the Europa Hotel at 7pm on Friday 8th October, will be hosted by BBC’s Mark Simpson and will look back on the Boys’ Model School’s major accomplishment of becoming the first and only non-grammar school to get their hands on the coveted Rugby Schools Cup.

To add to the celebration, the dinner will also remember the 25th anniversary of the “golden soccer year” in which Belfast Boys’ Model School swept the board in all football competitions across all age groups and recognise current cultural achievements at the School.

The event will also welcome special guest speaker, Frank Wilson, a former Boys’ Model teacher and player on the school’s winning team in 1971. Frank will look back fondly on and discuss his time playing at the school as well for Ulster and Ireland, the latter of which he wore the number 15 jersey in the 1970’s.

Former Head Boy, Head of the Civil Service and charity board Chair, Sir Nigel Hamilton expressed his joy that the dinner will be reflecting on and celebrating a key date within the school’s history:

“We are delighted that, after a tough year for everyone, the celebratory dinner will be a memorable event and an opportunity for former students, staff, friends and family of the Boys’ Model team to meet together and look back fondly on an important piece of history for the school and its players, past and present.

We’re thrilled to have a star studded line up of guests and to welcome Frank back home for a re-presentation of the Schools Cup which will be a very special moment for us all. Most importantly, this evening is about supporting our young boys to give them the opportunity and encouragement to excel. We hope that everyone comes out to support this worthy cause on Friday 8th October.”

Established in 2015, the charity provides bursaries to Boys’ Model pupils going into third level education, encouraging boys who are otherwise hesitant to pursue third level education, many of which are the first member of their extended family to go to university.

To date, the charity has provided funding of £61,000 to 25 pupils and this year will allocate seven awards.

Frank Wilson, former Boys’ Model teacher recognises first-hand the work of the charity and the effect the money raised has on the students involved:

“The bursary fund is essential in encouraging boys to raise their aspirations and help them further their education. The dinner will be a great night for all involved and a great opportunity to not only reflect on great times but also look forward to the future.

With the challenges of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we support young talent to further their education and open up more opportunities and we hope that this dinner will go a long way in raising much needed funding. It’s also a great way for us to connect with the local community and welcome more friends to the charity and we look forward to seeing old and new faces alike on the night.”

Guests are encouraged to book tickets early for what promises to be a great event for a worthy cause. To purchase a ticket for the event, visit here or email fund@boysmodelbursary.com

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Belfast City

Cathedral Quarter BID Celebrates Success Of Street Beat Police Presence In Area

An initiative that saw additional dedicated police officers patrolling Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has been welcomed as a proven success story by Destination CQ’s manager Damien Corr.

The Ballot for the continuation of the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) is currently open until September 22. In an independent survey carried out in advance of the ballot, the Street Beat (#streetbeat) programme was seen as one of the key projects that adds value for businesses and organisations in the area, over 90% of respondents prioritised it for inclusion in the Business Plan for the next 5 years.

The StreetBeat officers are paid for by the BID and are additional to the normal policing provided by PSNI. The initiative was a direct response to local business owners’ concerns regarding antisocial activity within the areas. 

BID manager Damien Corr said: “As the businesses are paying for the service, it was essential that they felt in ‘control’, accordingly the officers have a designated phone which our Cathedral Quarter businesses can call direct 07787432635. This ability to bypass the general PSNI Switchboard is key to a more effective localised response.”

The officers patrol the area on foot and in their distinctive CQ street beat branded vehicle, dealing with anti-social behaviour and criminal activity. They also visit premises offering practical security and personnel safety advice and equipment.

StreetBeat PSNI officer Michael Gillies added: “Being given the time and support both by the BID and PSNI management, I have been allowed to focus my work specifically within the Cathedral Quarter and its needs. 

“This has helped to strengthen relationships already made with businesses and also to forge new ones. It’s back to basics Neighbourhood policing, only this time the neighbourhood is my local business community”.

However, the future of the scheme in the Cathedral Quarter relies on a ‘yes’ vote for a new five-year term for the Business Improvement District organisation Destination CQ.

With ballot papers already issued and voting by post closing on September 22, Mr Corr is keen to remind voters of what could be lost without their votes.

“The BID levy payers have told us that they really appreciate the work done by our Street Beat officers who, between them, have provided 2080 extra policing hours targeted patrolling,” he said. 

“They were particularly effective over lockdown when lots of properties were left unattended. Our officers continued to patrol, checking on closed business premises and providing assurance and practical assistance to those who continued to work.

“It is a simple reality, that unless we get a yes vote in the ballot, aloof this additional targeted policing will be lost to Cathedral Quarter.”

Sorcha Woolsy, Operations Director of Beannchor with a number of businesses in the BID area said the BID has carried out a number of projects that have impacted the Beannchor suite of businesses.

“The one that really stands out to me is the provision of the City Centre Beat Officers,” she added.

“It’s a really good example of an initiative that a BID can provide that an individual business could not on their own. 

“For me, it is imperative to vote yes on the re-ballot of the BID. The collective energy and brainpower and money of a group of businesses all pulling in the same direction for the betterment of this area will inevitably gain better results than individual businesses doing little bits and pieces on their own.”

For more information on the work of Destination CQ and Street Beat go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.

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