A new bid to protect Twelfth buses has been launched through a project that will see young people in Greysteel act as community wardens alongside the PSNI.
Last July, buses were attacked in Greysteel as they made their way back from the Twelfth in Derry.
We hope there will be a peaceful Twelfth and that people passing through Greysteel know they can do so safely.Columba Mailey
This summer, agencies involved in a new project with 20 young people from the area hope the ugly scenes from last year will not be repeated.
Programme officer at The Vale Ventre, Columba Mailey, said: “Last summer we made regional news regarding the stoning of buses, and there were some nasty scenes. We said this year we didn’t want that to happen again.
“A lot of youth in the area were even embarrassed about what happened and said ‘that wasn’t right, that’s not us and it’s giving Greysteel a bad name.”
After meeting with the Good Relations officers at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Columba said: “We came up with the ‘Focus’ project and the idea is to educate the youth in the area for respect and tolerance other cultures, to build a united community.
“We plan to visit the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and speak to some of the Apprentice Boys and speak to people who may have been on those buses, and get their thoughts. We will also be doing good relations projects throughout the 10-weeks,” said Columba.
One element of the programme involves 20 young people, aged between 14 and 17.
“We hope there will be a peaceful Twelfth and that people passing through Greysteel know they can do so safely. Youth will act as community wardens, working alongside the police so people know they are safe and welcome to pass through here. Some of the young people feel embarrassed about what happened last year,” said Columba.
“They were not necessarily the culprits, but it’s all about education on the ground and if they can talk to those who were involved that will make a massive difference.”
Timmy Óg Daly, 22, from Greysteel, explained: “Last November I took part in a project with people from a loyalist background and we went to areas of significance for both traditions here in Northern Ireland such as the Apprentice boys memorial hall in Derry, Arbour Hill and Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, among many other places. I found the views and respect shown by the other participants very refreshing and nothing like Unionist politicians who supposedly represent them, and wanted to bring this back to my community.
“I knew Columba had organised different youth projects in the village before so I went to him and together we filled it out and I feel we have put together an exciting and groundbreaking programme which will hopefully benefit everyone involved.”
PSNI Sgt. Robert Ennis said police were happy to be involved in the project.
“I think it’s to be commended and we’re excited to be working with the community and put a stop to the small number of people involved,” he said. “At the end of the day, the PSNI is about keeping people safe but we can’t police without the community’s support.”
Alan Young from Translink said over the years, Greysteel has been on record as “being a hotspot”. He said anything that ensured the safety of people was to be welcomed.
Causeway Coast and Glens Council Good Relations officer, Johnny Donaghy, said: “It’s a prejudice awareness project, and allows people the opportunity to see the impact their actions have on other people.
“We hope through the project the young people will see the things they have been doing has had a negative impact, and this will, hopefully, address those issues. It’s a fantastic good relations initiative.”