No place for vigilantes

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA RAYMOND MCCARTNEY argues that vigilantism has no place in society.

The programme will be delivered by HURT whose track record in this field is exemplary.

HURT was founded by a person who feels the pain of losing a child to the scourge of drug misuse and those who prey on the most vulnerable in our society.

In this context, HURT’s rationale and obvious drive is easily understood.

Part of the presentation was an insight into the work envisaged by the programme. The figures based on work previously delivered were impressive.

No-one associated with HURT will ever make the claim that its work will eliminate the culture of drug abuse which, unfortunately, is very much part of the world we live in.

However, what HURT will articulate, and articulated very clearly at the project launch, is that mothers having to take their children up back lanes to be shot offers nothing to minimise the impact of drug use in Derry or elsewhere for that matter.

HURT acknowledges that it is only one of many groups who work to make Derry a better place in which to live.

Indeed, one of the great strengths of life in this city is that we enjoy a vibrant and dynamic community and voluntary sector. It is difficult to walk down a street anywhere in Derry without witnessing the positive work carried out on a daily basis by that sector.

Its work has an impact on the community, literally from cradle to grave, through education, health, and social justice projects and many more besides.

The programmes of work they undertake are not just about the provision of what are excellent services in their own right but also by means of building up communities and giving people a direct input to the place we live in.

It creates a sense of community identity and purpose which assists in dealing with the many social problems that are faced by many people every day.

How better to deal with anti-community behaviour and inadequate policing responses, educational under attainment, health and social inequalities, than to provide people with a sense of belonging and ownership of community where we all have a key role in the process of delivering a path to the future.

Too often, the work of community and voluntary groups is not given the publicity and praise it merits. Indeed, these community activists are just too busy to seek publicity or praise.

There is no better example and no better community than Creggan to validate this.

Challenges are faced every day by community leaders and activists to ensure that life in Creggan remains as strong and vibrant as is synonymous with its history.

Providing leadership within a community can be demanding but those who provide it are not deflected by others who hide behind innuendo and graffiti daubed on walls in the dark of night.

The easy thing to do is, perhaps, to acquiesce or pander to false agendas. However, leaders lead and Creggan has it in abundance.

Indeed, this leadership is exemplified by community workers such as Sean McMonagle and by the calm and dignified manner in which he has conducted himself. His leadership makes me very humble in that I can rely on him as a friend and comrade in the work that we all do.

As he poignantly pointed out, being under attack can be frustrating and puts a strain on family members.

It is much easier to be a nay-sayer and pour out clichéd and hackneyed analysis which bears no resemblance to reality.

It’s much easier to slip into the lazy narrative of trying to pit one group against another.

Witness recently the currency given by sections of the media to armed vigilantes defining what constitutes a ‘genuine’ community group. In other words, those who challenge the vigilantes’ existence or will not play their game need not apply!

This article is not simply to praise what is without doubt praiseworthy and, in recent times, dangerous work, but it does present a challenge to us all, to apprise ourselves of the value of the work carried out by community activists like Sean McMonagle and organisations such as HURT.

We all have a role in ensuring that it cannot and should not be undermined or undervalued by those with the hidden agenda of self-indulgence and sectional interest.

We must support those who strive to make our community stronger, vibrant and safer. Any attack on them, either individually or collectively, must be challenged.

We, as a community, must stand as one and declare that we will play our part, along with others, in tackling social deprivation, social inequality in all its forms and the resultant negative impacts.

This is the most challenging of tasks we face. That challenge is faced up to and worked at every day by community activists and support groups and those efforts will continue.

There is no place for those who proclaim that they can resolve our problems by brutalising, vilifying or demonising our young people.