Long Tower Youth Club pulls out of conference due to Saoradh pressure

Long Tower.
Long Tower.

A Derry youth club yesterday opted not to participate in an engagement event in the Guildhall with the PSNI, local councillors and ex-combatants following criticism from the republican group Saoradh.

Young people from the club had been due to take part in the conference at which they would have taken part in a question and answers session with various stakeholders including the PSNI, local councillors, ex-combatants and local community representatives.

But following criticism of the club's planned participation by Saoradh, which is opposed to the settlement negotiated through the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution of policing and justice to the North, its management decided not take part.

Saoradh had said: "We urge Long Tower Youth Club to rethink their position and the effect it will have on young people involved with the club."

In a statement the Long Tower Youth Club responded: "Youth work is about providing the platform for young people to engage directly with those who they have issues with.

"This has always been the basis of youth work, at no point do our youth workers allow their personal values to influence the work they do or how they go about their jobs.

"Youth work is about adopting an undue positive regard approach so that we take young people at face value and not judge them.

"When they present with an issue such as policing then our youth workers advocate on their behalf and encourage them to develop their communication skills personally, socially and politically, so that they can engage directly, on their terms with those who they perceive to be the issue."

Prior to the event Saoradh claimed it had been contacted by a number of parents concerned about the event.

Saoradh spokesman Paddy Gallagher said: “We have seen too many times recently where children, some of which are in school uniform, are being constantly harassed, intimidated, stopped and searched and even having their homes raided by British Crown Forces.

"It is of our opinion that youth clubs should be a neutral environment for children to flourish, develop and associate with their peers, not to be used as a political mechanism to adopt a broader acceptance of so called policing and normalisation within the Six Counties.”

But the Long Tower Youth Club's management said: "The whole conference was focused on providing young people with direct dialogue so that their voices can be heard and their views expressed on stop and search, house raids and policing in the community.

"This was never about going into a room and the police talking down to young people, it was about having the hard conversations and meaningful dialogue so that our members can take the journey of developing a community where they can develop a deeper understanding of each other and the roles they play within the community.

"The management of Long Tower have tried to engage in dialogue with the particular organisation who have a issue with this event as they have vowed to stage a protest, this request for engagement has been refused. Therefore we have no option but to cancel this event."