Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein and DUP slam 'disgraceful' protest threat to youth club conference

Long Tower Youth and Community Centre had planned a conference involving PSNI staff.

Police in Londonderry had been invited to the conference (PA)
Police in Londonderry had been invited to the conference (PA)

Sinn Fein has condemned a republican party's threat to protest against a youth club event involving the PSNI .

The Long Tower Youth and Community Centre, in Londonderry, was due to hold a conference in the Guildhall on Wednesday.

But political party Saoradh said it would stage a demonstration because of the planned involvement of the PSNI.

The youth centre said they had “no option” but to cancel the event after they said Saoradh refused to engage in dialogue.

Long Tower said the 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”.

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. Long Tower Youth Club

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan described the cancellation as "a disgrace".

“The fact that Saoradh refused to even engage with the youth club is typical of their failure to rationalise or defend their own actions," she said.

“They should withdraw the threat to protest and allow the youth club to get on with the positive work they are doing within this community every day of the week.”

DUP MLA Gary Middleton called for nationalist leadership following the cancellation of the conference.

“The cancellation of this event is the latest example of a very worrying trend within Londonderry. Police recruitment events have been cancelled in the city and I am aware of schools coming under pressure not to allow the PSNI to visit to speak to pupils,” said Mr Middleton, who is also a member of the Policing Board.

“We are continually told about “micro-groups” who have no support, yet we now see an event scheduled for the main civic building of our city cancelled due to threats of protest.

“Those who claim to speak on behalf of the overwhelming majority of nationalists and republicans in Londonderry need to step forward and demonstrate the leadership they are so ready to demand from others.

“The Chief Constable has previously talked about the need for nationalism to take 'another step in terms of policing'. The cancellation of this event demonstrates the need for leadership is greater than ever.”

In a post on Facebook, Lower Tower Youth Club wrote: “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.”

Saoradh representative Paddy Gallagher said: “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.”

The party urged Long Tower Youth Club to rethink its position and the effect it would have on young people involved with the club.

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