17 May 2017

Children’s Commissioner addresses child abuse by armed groups in Lower Falls area.

PSNI figures released today show casualties of paramilitary style shootings in Northern Ireland have increased by 100% since 2015/16. 54% of all paramilitary style attacks (shootings and assaults) took place in the Belfast City Policing Area1

Speaking following a series of meetings with statutory and community organisation representatives, young people and political representatives, Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“It is unacceptable that these assaults on our young people are tolerated.

“Northern Ireland’s past cannot be used as an excuse to normalise such assaults. The reality of life for these young people is often that of fear, poverty, intimidation, substance abuse or addiction, mental ill health and a lack of confidence in their police and other statutory services. 

“However, I am convinced that this seemingly intractable situation can change if our public authorities work together with the local community to develop a long term action plan, supported and sustained by government.

On such a plan the Children’s Commissioner said,

“We need to have a community plan which tackles deep seated issues such as drug misuse, educational underachievement, crime, anti-social behaviour and poverty. The whole community must feel safe and confident in accessing all the services to which they are entitled, including policing, social care, health and education.

“A unified approach is clearly something that is not happening, but if adopted, will make sure that such gangs do not have the opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable communities and young people. It would also ensure that they are not viewed as acceptable alternatives to statutory justice agencies.

The Commissioner praised the excellent work being undertaken in the Lower Falls area, but reiterated that this needs to be sustained with clearer long term goals, owned and driven by the community and statutory agencies. 

“Services in youth justice, policing, education and social care need to be properly resourced and maintained, they need to work together with children and families and intervene earlier to effectively address the issues facing them and the local community.” 

Koulla concluded,

“There is no denying that these are complex issues and we know that change won’t happen overnight, however, we need to start with one plan for one community. This could provide a way forward for other areas of Northern Ireland experiencing similar issues.

“I will monitor actions and progress by relevant authorities on this issue and share good practice with others. I am confident that with the right focus and commitment, this community can achieve the outcomes we all wish to see for our children, young people and families across Northern Ireland.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • For more information and to bid for interviews, please contact Patrice Morris, Communications and Engagement Officer  on Communications@niccy.org, 028 9031 1616 or mobile - 07917 544 177.
  • The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People was established in 2003 by the Assembly and Parliament to: “safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people”.

Statistics

  • 1 – (NB these stats relate to all age groups and are not available on the basis of age due to the possibility of jigsaw identification)

Some other statistics from this report:

- Casualties from paramilitary style shootings in Northern Ireland have increased by 100% since 2015/16 (from 14 -28)

- Casualties from paramilitary style assaults have increased from 58 (2015/16) – 66 (2016/17)

- Casualties as a result of paramilitary attacks (assaults and shootings)  have increased in Northern Ireland by approximately 30% since last year (from 72 - 94). 66 of the 94 casualties during the past year were the victim of paramilitary-style assaults while the remaining 28 were the victims of paramilitary-style shootings

- During 2016/17 casualties as a result of paramilitary style assaults (66) was the highest number of casualties in the past 10 years, other than in 2009/10, when there were 81 casualties.