Communities in the dark about peace project

A NEW peace building programme has been earmarked for Lurgan, but it appears the communities where it is to be implemented have been left in the dark about the project.

It was announced on Friday by Early Years - an organisation for young children - that Mourneview and Taghnevan estates were to benefit from a new peace building and anti-bullying programme which would be used to educate children about good community relations.

However, local community groups say they know nothing about the three-year project.

Anne Hanlon, chairperson of the Mourneview Community Association, said: “I knew nothing about it. They didn’t consult with us nor did it come through Neighbourhood Renewal.

“Usually when they’re doing anything cross community the community associations are consulted.”

Taghnevan Community Association chair Paddy McMenamin commented: “We’re certainly in favour of building bridges between the two communities - it’s something we’ve been trying to do for a long time.

“What’s strange is that we haven’t heard anything about this until now, either through members of our community association, Neighbourhood Renewal or the council’s Community Development department.

“It seems to have put a few people out. To find someone is coming in to do work in your community, you’d have thought they should have spoken to key people beforehand so everyone is singing from the same hymnsheet.”

The ‘Faces and Spaces – Children’s Shared Space Programme’ promotes a culture of respect for difference in terms of race, religion, disability and ethnicity and will receive funding from the Contested Space/Interface Programme from OFMDFM and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

It has been designed to promote the role of early intervention in building good relations between interface communities.

The ‘MAIL’ queried Early Years on the consultation process for the project and was told by a spokesperson: “Early Years is delighted to launch the Faces and Spaces Project in the Lurgan area and we would welcome input from local community organisations to help guide the project through the local Faces and Spaces Partnership.

“Thanks to our network of local Early Years specialists who work with pre-schools, early years settings and schools in the designated wards, as well as the local Sure Start, the Southern Education and Library Board, Craigavon Borough Council Good Relations Unit and the Community Relations Council and the Early Years healthy families initiative operating in the Taghnevan area, we have been able to gather the local knowledge required to get the project off the ground.

“We look forward to working with the young children from all communities in the area over the next three years.”