Abandoned to criminals? Or a day in the life?

Came across this entry on irishrepublican.net (can’t direct link as the site is closed to general readers and most new members after Private Messages were accessed and read by person or persons unknown – but that’s another story):

continues below the fold

UPDATE ADDED BELOW

Further update added – Fra McCann’s support for vigilantism

People of the Lower Falls abandoned
by
firstimeout
from irishrepublican.net

These pictures show a house which has been destroyed by local scummy bastards from Divis. Those responible are known as DHLA* from Divis, The house in question is number 15 mcdonald street, lower falls, belfast.

This area has been abandoned to the dogs and residents feel isolated and helpless. Over the last 6 weeks the area has been trashed by bins been stolen and burnt outside houses, joyriders have returned to the area and have caused chaos to this small built up estate.

As a resident myself, i have to say the only time i saw a politican from sinn fein, sdlp was when Bap McCreeevy was killed. I can tell you now that someone else is going to be killed with the destruction of our community.

Those local mla’s tasked with the reponsibility of looking after our safety and interests have let me down and other residents down big time.

Over a year ago i heard Sinn Fein talk about a multiagency approach with tackling Anti Social Behaviour, but im sorry it has failed as this area has not been turned around, this is the worst place to live in the 6 counties.

The area has a underbelly of society who want to cause hurt, destruction and for better word, they want to create their own estate for criminals.

What can we do to sort this area out? I know what i think but would like to hear yours.
I would like good solid answers from all sections regarding this please.

*DHLA – Divis Hoods Liberation Army

Update:

In Monday’s ATN local SF MLA Fra McCann gave his support to ‘plans to march on hoods homes’ in the area – can’t get a direct link but it is on page 4 of the pagesuite edition (which now requires ridiculously invasive and pointless registration requirements – [cynic]unless of course you are intending to sell the information gathered during the ‘free registration'[/cynic]).

Although the previous Thursday’s issue carried a report on page 8 seemingly critical of community pickets outside a house where it was alleged by CFAD (Concerned Families Against Drugs) drug dealing took/takes place – CFAD has little or no SF support.

Further update: SF support for vigilantism

Plans to march on hoods’ homes
Andersonstown News 24/02/09

A Sinn Féin MLA has said he will support plans by Lower Falls residents to march on the homes of hoods destroying the district.

Fra McCann says the situation has got so bad that people feel they have no option but to protest outside the houses of those wrecking the area.

“I’d fully support any protest plans,” said Fra.

“This community has had its fill of the hoods wrecking this area.”

Rampaging gangs have turned the Lower Falls into a war zone in recent weeks.

Last Wednesday they burned down an empty house in McDonnell Street, before using debris from the property to build a barricade across the road.

The incident followed a story in last Monday’s Andersonstown News that a vacant home in McDonnell Street had become a magnet for anti-social elements.

The next day a car was set on fire on Roumania Rise. When firefighters attempted to put out the blaze they were stoned.

The situation has become so bad that residents are afraid to walk the streets after dark. The problem is made worse by the fact that lampposts in Albert and Servia streets have been smashed, plunging the area into darkness.

When contractors attempted to repair the lights they were bricked by gangs that included children as young as eight.

When they did eventually return to the area they had to be escorted by community workers. Terrified locals, who have compared the Lower Falls to Dodge City, also complain that death driving, drug dealing, underage drinking and assaults are rife.

Last year former republican prisoner Bap McGreevy was beaten to death at his Ross Road flat.

Following the killing, which shocked West Belfast, politicians, the PSNI and government agencies promised to do all they could to clean up the Lower Falls. But after some initial success residents say the area is as bad as ever.

With community patience quickly running out, locals are planning protests outside the homes of the rampaging hoods – a move that has the full backing of Sinn Féin.

“If there are going to be demonstrations they need to be part of an overall strategy,” added Fra McCann.

“I met with the PSNI on Friday and there are further meetings planned with the Housing Executive. What we need, though, is the community to unite and deal with this problem. It’s no good people sitting at home complaining. If you want to make a difference get involved with the Safer Neighbourhood Project or residents’ association.”

The Housing Executive joined in the condemnation of the hoods wrecking the Lower Falls.

A spokeswoman said: “We utterly condemn the actions of those responsible for the constant vandalism and damage to property, which puts the entire community at risk.

“We will not hesitate to take legal action against any Housing Executive tenants who have been involved in anti-social behaviour.”

  • dunreavynomore

    If this is even remotely close to the truth then it is a terrible state of affairs and those people have indeed been abandoned. It will be interesting to see the response here, and more importantly, on the ground. As someone who lives 60 miles from Belfast I don’t presume to have any personal knowledge of the situation or to have the answers to it except to say that there seems to be mass failure across the board of responsibility.

  • Mark

    It’s a pity the people of the Lower Falls largely abandoned the SDLP in favour of Sinn Fein or they might find themselves less abandoned now?

    You reap what you sow, and when you sow even a pretence to revolutionary politics, those who are listening will hear the relevant voices – voices which shout that violence is alright sometimes and which have led to this abyss today.

  • Glenn

    Sinn Fein need to keep their electoral areas as ghettos, feeding the people of their areas a dally diet of hopelessness and despair. This is why republican areas have the highest number of young people committing suicide, doing drugs, car crime and anti social behaviour. That is why they insist in getting involved on all local community based activities so they can control that area. It just does not happen by accident.
    Do you see the resemblance to 20’s and 30’s Germany and the rise of fascism?

  • joeCanuck

    This sad story reminds me of a slogan painted on a wall in the Falls’ area back in the seventies:
    “Is there life before death?”

  • aquifer

    Teenage revolutionaries don’t do social capital. – Maybe their maths were not strong enough for the other sort. All those kids taken out of school over the years, told to throw stones and that everything was the Orangies fault. Gone now.

    Catholic schoolteachers and doctors don’t do birth control, lawyers can’t create jobs from grievances, publicans can’t fight addiction.

    Its just as well the SDLP and Sinn Fein are in coalition with the DUP and UUP, otherwise the Falls would be in real trouble.

  • Scaramoosh

    The simple way to resolve nay crisis in N.Ireland is to elevate it beyond the tribal bear pit and onto the international stage.

    My advice to you is to email your story to the editors of Time Magazine and the New York Times.
    You will find their email addresses on their respective websites.

    Cut out the political bile out from your pitch, and tell them to you would like to present the goings on in a peace time Belfast community, and ask if they would be interested in covering it.

    You may find that once you have done this, and before you can say Caitlín Ní Uallacháin, that the problem will be very quickly resolved.

    The moral of the story is quite simple; rats do not like to have lights shone on them, and they will do almost anything to prevent such an occurence.

  • dunreavynomore

    Scaramoosh
    Internationalising such issues would be useful. Gerry Adams was telling us how he is bringing the demand for a united Ireland to the ‘diaspora’ with two meetings planned for the USA this year so that is the last kind of pressure he will want. The March issue of The Smithsonian Magazine carries an interview with The Quinn Family and supporters over the murder of Paul Quinn, again something Gerry would prefer not to have to deal with. (the March issue is not on line yet). If local pressure carries no weight then put the pressure on where Gerry is ‘sanctified’.

  • Mark McGregor

    Entry has been updated.

  • Another whinge

    Could just as easily read ‘people of the Craigavon abandoned’ or people of ‘Ballymena abandoned’ – I’ve witnessed much more terrible destruction on a larger scale than anything that goes on in the Lower Falls. But oh wait, they’re not “republican areas” with SF representatives. Grow a set and do something about it instead of bitching and harking back to the good ol days when you expect “the boys” to be sent in. What’s happening there is no worse than any other deprived are.

  • lower falls

    I’m trying to contact a representative of the lower falls. Singling out an area like this is a disgrace. I’m hoping someone will be in contact with mick about it. Lifting from a private forum and opening an area that has much the same issues as a lot of other areas like it is discrimination, and something the good people of the lower falls can do without.

  • joeCanuck

    Tell it like it is, Mark. I guess someone ran to teacher.

    Now, on topic, you have highlighted a serious problem, notwithstanding what “Another whinge” says.
    So what can be done? Some cities in the USA have totally cured problems like that by creating temporary task forces to swamp the areas and sweep up and eventually jail the out of control ones. Would that work in West Belfast or would certain public representatives immediately try to exploit such “police heavyhandedness”?

  • Tee Dee Um

    I’m afraid that republicans have a large amount of responsibility for what is happening in this working class area. In common with militant loyalists they spent many years attacking the police and failing to support effective law and order.

    Even today support for the police is eroded by circulating stories of “ten-pound touts” and condemning police failures to aggressively crack heads. It is little wonder that people feel abondoned and is it not telling that the police are not even mentioned in the above article?

    Is it any wonder that local “hoods” have learned the lesson that anti-social behaviour can go unpunished when the community has been cowed into apathy and mistrust?

    Sinn Fein sold its supporters a pup when they claimed that the “peace process” was a victory; anyone remember the tricolour bedecked cavalcades through West Belfast? The land of milk and honey has not arrived for the folks on the Lower Falls and even now Sinn Fein’s leaders occupy themselves with internationalising the pie-in-the-sky drive for unity and failing to address the present day social realities of their communities.

    As in loyalist areas the “war” has left a social breakdown in the most deprived wards. Instead of harking back to 1916 or 1969 it is time Sinn Fein applied themselves to what can be achieved now and in the short term. Leave the distant green horizon to come, or not, as it may.

  • Mark McGregor

    Joe,

    Should make it clear, the stuff moved to be reviewed by Mick was at my suggestion and was only moved because it was entirely irrelevant and mostly personal ‘man not ball’ playing. Nothing to do with the content of the blog entry.

  • cynic

    “do not need outsiders like you jumping on a band wagon about which you know nothing”

    Ourselves alone then?

    Or embarrassment?

  • The Raven

    Tell you what, Lower Falls, let’s try this approach, and see if it makes you feel a wee bit better:

    As a complete outsider who lived on the edge of the Lower Falls for a couple of years, I find what Mark has posted to be disgraceful. This is not adverse publicity. This is a chance to highlight the problem in a sustained way until someone, somewhere, does something about it.

    If, in doing this, Mark singles out the political representatives who do NOT A JOT over the past ten years to get this – and its causes – sorted out, then fair play. It’s what sites like Slugger should be doing.

    I find it reprehensible that this is going on in any area, never mind the Falls. And it does go on elsewhere. It purely underlines the complete failure of the political process, and those engaged in it. And while I rarely agree with much that Mark writes, it’s good to see that at least he has posted something that may actually get some of these over-paid arseholes off their backsides to get something done.

    By the way Mark – Does this area fall under Neighbourhood Renewal?

  • Mark, to get back on track, and seeing how you posted this first, where do you stand on residents picketing the homes of hoods?

  • The Raven

    I think, all things considered, that what has just occured, was the best option!

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, I think I have everything off that needs taken off. If you think I have cut too hard (and taken legitimate comment on the subject away), or indeed left anything on that should come off please let me know by email. Please don’t use the thread to continue personal arguments.

  • Neil

    The cops are not fit for purpose. An example would be the hijacker on the falls road, who was filmed running up and down the road with a replica trying to hijack a car. There were dozens of witnesses, numerous people filmed this on cameras, there was cctv footage and several people phoned the police.

    The police showed up 45 minutes later, didn’t get out of their unmarked car, and left again. PPS dropped the case (now under review due to the fuss caused by the aforementioned dozens of witnesses).

    The cops are not mentioned in the article, because they clearly hold a great deal of resentment against the nationalist community, and due to this, they do not respond to crimes in the same fashion in WB as they might do in say, anywhere else.

    Now some people will support the police in their laissez faire attitude, for example TDU above, basically saying it is Nationalists (and militant Loyalists) own fault. My two points would be this:

    One, the cops have a < 20% clearup rate for crimes. That means that more than 80% of criminals get away scot free. So by those numbers, the cops aren't fit to handle their day to day duties never mind help tackle anti-social behaviour in an area inhabited by people who they resent. Broken down further, our police and justice system is absolutely shit, the cops is a boys club of innefective arseholes who can't solve crime, and don't care about being viewed as totally ineffective.Two, if you divorce yourself from your preconceptions, and imagine that your wife is in a car with two kids, having a gun pointed at her. Someone phones the cops. 45 minutes later help arrives, but the cops don't even get out of the car. How would you feel?I am interested in the idea of marching on the hoods homes. Is it vigilantiism to tell scumbags that you know where they live? Or to go tell the parents your little son, who you know is making lives miserable for everyone, is now known to all of your neighbours? Do those people who deprive working decent people of their human rights deserve to have their human rights protected? This is not shooting people. This is demonstrating to people that enough is enough, and maybe the parents will step in to avoid shame being brought to their door, saying as they obviously don't give a fuck about anyone else's right to happiness.

  • doyourjob

    1. Grosvenor Rd Recreation Centre
    2. Maureen Sheehan Centre
    3. Tar Anall
    4. Falls Leisure Centre
    5. West Belfast Area Project
    6. Falls Community Council
    7. Dunlewey Substance Abuse Advice Centre
    8. Falls Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership
    9. West Belfast Partnership Board
    10. Community Safety Partnership
    11. Numerous Residents Organisations
    12. BMC Dunlewey Centre
    13. Clonard Youth Centre
    14. Immaculata Boxing Club
    15. Davitts GAC
    16. Mc Dermotts GAC
    17. Dwyers GAC

    Off the top of my head the first thirteen organisations on this list are all recieving funding from statutory bodies to work directly or indirectly weith the people in this area to overcome these type of problems.If I was to sit down I am sure I could think of anothe 13 at least, this is not counting the amount of other resources put in by the Housing Executive like wardens, the health service and the BELB. How about picketing some of these well funded”community “groups asking them to ensure their employees do what it is they are fucking paid to do. I think this may help, not a solution but it may help!!

  • Neil

    I can almost hear the hoods to the community workers, after having, say, stolen a car and set it alight for example: ‘It’s your fault, you should of stopped me’.

  • jone

    E-mail Time and the NYT about some tedious social problems in some obscure corner of an obscure corner of Europe?

    We should really get over ourselves – it reminds me of the time those jumped-up, narcissistic hoods in BM asked for the US envoy Mitchell Reiss to intervene in their squalid dispute.

  • dunreavynomore

    doyourjob
    re your list of groups recieving ‘funding’, we should bear in mind that those groups, and many more, were created to ‘recieve funding’ and are doing a great job of that. Surely that is enough for us, jobs for the boys and girls, and there’s you actually wanting them to do something usefull.

  • cynic

    “The cops are not mentioned in the article, because they clearly hold a great deal of resentment against the nationalist community, and due to this, they do not respond to crimes in the same fashion in WB as they might do in say, anywhere else.”

    “Those would be the 50% Catholic cops recruited post Patten then?

    And how many of the witnesses were prepared to give evidence?

  • Tee Dee Um

    The public do not get the police they deserve. They get the police that those who shout loudest demand. Over many years the changes to the police have resulted in an organisation that is subject to many checks and balances and is human rights focused.

    The result is police having to tread lightly and no matter what some may think human rights apply to the bad guys as well as the good.

    It is somewhat ironic that the communities who protested the most about “heavy-handed policing”, somethimes known alternatively as “political policing”, now want the police to crack the heads of hoods and steamroller their way through the Human Rights Act.

    It ain’t going to happen.

    This is not about the police holding “resentment” against particular communities as the poor clear-up record is spread right across the jurisdiction of the PSNI. Also, as cynic has noted, the majority of the police on the street are Patten recruits so at least one out of every two cops should be sympathetic.

    As to marching on “hoods” homes that in itself is thuggery. It may be understandable and bourne out of fear and frustration but if you “know” someone is guilty make a statement, go to court and stand up for your community in a stand-up way.

  • Diomedes

    By “sympathetic” I take it that you mean Catholic. If so I would find it highly unlikely than at least one out of every two cops on the streets would be so; as Catholics comprised 23.71% of the PSNI in Feb 08.

    http://www.nio.gov.uk/30-catholic-composition-within-psni-is-achievable-goggins/media-detail.htm?newsID=15021

  • Comrade Stalin

    I wrote a long and rather rambling comment on this topic yesterday, before the thread was pulled, and my comment got lost as I’d pressed “submit” right after the thing got yanked. I’ll try to be more concise.

    The problem that Mark is describing is extremely serious and effects areas other than lower Falls, although the example there is definitely a great deal worse than where I am familiar with. But the basic idea is the same; “yoof” hanging out on waste ground, abandoned houses or back entries, drinking, taking drugs and being a nuisance. Before long, it escalates to stealing and burning bins (I have been told by the PSNI that bin-burning is a craze that seems to have recently taken off in a big way; they were speculating that sniffing the fumes gets people high), intimidating residents, lighting fires using old rubbish or wood in the streets; vandalizing cars by removing wing mirrors, wipers etc; graffiti and so on.

    It seems to be below the radar because the direct financial cost is relatively low. The local authorities usually subsidize the costs of replacing stolen bins; it’s usually not expensive to repair damaged fences, and graffiti removal chemicals can be found relatively inexpensively which can be very effective. However, the effect on the community is rather like a chinese water torture; people are kept under stress by having to be continuously vigilant to see if any trouble is emerging, and there is very real fear among people, especially the elderly and those with small children, that they will have their homes attacked. There is a very real feeling of helplessness; you can’t confront the gangs doing this otherwise you will be singled out for special treatment. You can’t do anything to stop it. It’s not like a spate of burglaries, where you would be able to spend some money installing a burglar alarm or CCTV. There’s no way to spend money to alleviate ASB.

    I also don’t think the problem is anything to do with paramilitarism, or its history, because problems like this occur in communities throughout the UK and Ireland. It’s a lot more to do with a culture among a certain element of abandoning parental responsibility.

    The solution in my view is to get authoritarian. It’s ridiculous that there are people hanging around with a long list of driving, burglary, or vandalism offences. If people are found to be persistent offenders they need to be locked away for very long periods of time – years if need be. Other measures need to be taken, such as depriving people of their property or vehicle; or extending the legal requirement to ensure that children attend school to be a more general one to ensure that children do not hang about and cause trouble.

    I would much rather solve a “why are there so many teenagers doing jail time?” problem rather than a “why are there so many instances of anti-social behaviour and vandalism destroying our communities” problem.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The public do not get the police they deserve. They get the police that those who shout loudest demand. Over many years the changes to the police have resulted in an organisation that is subject to many checks and balances and is human rights focused.

    This argument is quite easily refuted on the basis that these problems occur throughout the UK and Ireland (I’m not sure whether they happen in other countries or not).

    The issue with the PSNI is probably something to do with the fact that they are following Home Office policing guidelines. In addition, the judiciary follow sentencing guidelines that are likely derived from their equivalents in England. It’s seen as being counter-productive to apply harsh punishment in court, so a slap on the wrist is administered. This is frustrating (and expensive) for the police and the DPP who quickly become demoralized at seeing someone who they’ve put a lot of effort into investigating and catching getting released back into the wild again.

    This needs to be changed so that anti-social behaviour is specifically recognized and treated seriously in the courts as a major offence which damages communities and livelihoods, and makes entire districts of cities unpleasant to live in.

    The result is police having to tread lightly and no matter what some may think human rights apply to the bad guys as well as the good.

    Well, due process is applied and the protagonists are found guilty before the judge decides not to pass a proper sentence, so I don’t see how the HRA applies. And people should challenge the HRA if it is openly failing to protect the human rights of the victims of low-level crime.

    It is somewhat ironic that the communities who protested the most about “heavy-handed policing”, somethimes known alternatively as “political policing”, now want the police to crack the heads of hoods and steamroller their way through the Human Rights Act.

    It certainly is, but I share their frustration and I can’t condemn the plans to march on the houses of those likely to be guilty of this anti-social behaviour. If I lived there I would be marching along with them. Violence or other criminality directed towards the suspect would, of course, be utterly unacceptable and condemned without reservation, but I have experienced the frustration and feeling of helplessness that this community are going through, and in the vacuum being left by the authorities there may be no alternative.

  • Pete Baker

    Sorry, Mark,

    But are you criticising Fra McCann’s support for vigilanteeism?

    Because your previous comments on the topic aren’t exactly clear.

    “I applaud those that act together to prevent damage to them and their neighbours. I applaud any person ensuring an already impoverished society challenges those that would feed and create groups that leech of them. I especially applaud those that recognise the armed wing of Britain in Ireland won’t and can’t play a role in empowering them.”

    But then there is an ongoing “bid to exert control in nationalist areas in particular..”

  • NCM

    Ok, so maybe a little vigilantism now and then is what is needed?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not sure what Mark proposes as the solution, but I’m sure nobody denies that the problem is very real.

    Vigilantism will inevitably become prevalent in cases where the authorities fail.

  • Tee Dee Um

    Comrade Stalin you assert that the problem is UK-wide and not specfic to NI. I agree. You support this position by underlining that the PSNI is following UK Home Office quidlines, again I agree.

    The problem is widespread, as is the policing response to it. That I alluded to the fact that the policing debate in NI has been more charged does not detract from the position.

    Setting to one side the religion of local police officers and the measures taken to produce a more represenatative organisation Patten did not produce anything that is not common practice in modern UK policing.

    The HRA is about balance and proportionality and applies inside the court to judges as it does to police on the street. You’re not going to get ten years hard labour for breaking a window or drinking on the street.

    I don’t intend to make light of the heartache caused by anti-social behaviour but the bottom line is that marching against people who are “likely to be guilty” is dangerous. Being a likely-lad is not evidence of guilt and tageting such people is simply putting one gang against another.

    The police and the courts operate the law and it is for politicians to make laws and then to robustly defend them against all who may challenge; and for the public to stand up and be counted. That is the way to go.

  • Cyn Ical

    It seems to be below the radar because the direct financial cost is relatively low. The local authorities usually subsidize the costs of replacing stolen bins; it’s usually not expensive to repair damaged fences, and graffiti removal chemicals can be found relatively inexpensively which can be very effective.

    Even cheaper when the local authorities don’t do any of those things, which is more to the point for West Belfast

  • Earnan

    Wow. SF should care less about winning votes in the Republic and a United Ireland and focus on issues like these. This is an embarassment to any Western country to have a neighborhood like this. What sort of government/leaders allow something like this to happen?

    It will never happen, but I feel repeat offenders of this low hood type crimes need to be sterilized upon release from jail

  • Comrade Stalin

    The HRA is about balance and proportionality and applies inside the court to judges as it does to police on the street. You’re not going to get ten years hard labour for breaking a window or drinking on the street.

    I accept the need for proportionality in sentencing. But I submit that we presently don’t have it. The sentencing guidelines evidently do not properly reflect the fact that a community is being destroyed. The penalties involved here are not serious enough to act as a deterrent.