Community workers determined to put an end to ongoing trouble at Belfast interface

Community workers have said they are determined to put an end to months of trouble at a Belfast interface which has seen groups of young people attacking one another.

Since August last year there have been in groups of youths gathering at the interface between South and West Belfast at the Westlink and Broadway, close to the McDonald's, for what police say are "pre-arranged fights".

Community groups have also alleged that properties and cars have been attacked in the area, with one community worker saying that his car was surrounded and attacked on the evening of Saturday, June 1.

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While the anti-social behaviour incidents are understood to have started in August, there was an escalation in trouble in October which then calmed down for a few months before starting again in 2024.

Police have said that there has been a spike in incidents over weekends and school holidays, with a number of young people involved in the altercations coming from outside of the local area and are using public transport routes to assemble there.

A number of the altercations have been posted on social media sites by different groups in what appears to be an effort to antagonise each other.

Sean Doherty of the Beechmount Residents Collective says that he was recently attacked close to the McDonald's on Boucher Road, claiming that a laser pen was shone into his car before he was surrounded by a group of youths with weapons who attacked his vehicle.

He has called for community groups to come together to address the trouble fearing that a young person could be killed or seriously injured if it continues.

Sean said: "On Saturday I was picking a friend up at Boucher Road when a group of kids must have noticed that I was wearing a GAA top and all of a sudden there was a laser pen shining through my car and I was surrounded by young people with weapons who started to attack my car.

"Thankfully I was able to get away without any injury, but the situation has left me worried about what is going on with young people in the area as there is regular trouble in the area.

"I am worried that if this continues among our youths that someone will end up seriously injured or killed, especially as they are chasing one another across a very busy motorway.

"I am hoping that community workers and leaders will be able to come together to discuss how to move past this and put plans in place to build better relationships among our young people who are putting themselves at risk for nothing."

Speaking to Belfast Live, Sarah Bowden of the Greater Village Regeneration Trust, said that she and her colleagues have been on the ground working with young people in the area in order to divert them away from anti-social behaviour and hopes that the issues can be resolved soon.

She said: "The problems at the interface have been going on for months and began to get quite heated in October last year.

"There was one incident where a masked group came across the motorway and started to attack people and houses in the area, which has led to young people congregating at night time at the interface looking to stop others coming to the area.

"While there is an issue with these groups arranging fights on social media and goading one another, it is a bit more complicated than that and we need community leaders to come together to address the issues so that we can put a stop to any further trouble.

"Although, there are many of the young people who have been involved in this who are not from the local area at all and have been using public transport routes like the Glider to come here and start trouble, with no care for the worrying impact they are having on the people living here."

While there has been a call for community groups to come together to address the anti-social issues in the area, GVRT have highlighted some of its ongoing work to help young people.

Sarah said: "We have recently just finished a cross community late night football project run by the Rangers Academy that has proved to have had a lot of success and gave young people a more positive outlet.

"We will also be working on a similar project with the IFA over the summer months which we hope will have the same positive impact in our communities."

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