A group of young people and community workers from Newtownabbey travelled to the north west recently to visit Londonderry, the UK City of Culture.
The group, from Rathcoole, New Mossley and other areas, visited the loyalist Fountain estate as part of a project funded by the CAN (Carrickfergus, Antrim and Newtownabbey) Peace III initiative.
The young people, aged between 16 and their early 20s, and community workers toured the Fountain estate and the Bogside area during their day trip. They also visited the Free Derry Museum, the Peace and Reconciliation Group and took an Apprentice Boys tour.
Jack Shaw from New Mossley Community Group explained how the group met with young people and community leaders in the Fountain and were “taken aback” by the stories they heard about the people of the area, their daily lives and their experiences of living in a small loyalist enclave in the predominantly nationalist Bogside.
Discussions included interfaces, bonfires, sectarian violence and the everyday interaction the people of the Fountain have with their republican neighbours and the police.
“It was a really good day, but the differences in people’s everyday lives there and here is scary. It was a real shock to us. The people living in the Fountain are so restricted in where they can go and what they can do as they always have that fear of being harassed or attacked,” he said.
“To see it first hand and hear the stories first had of people’s homes being attacked with bricks, bottles and blast bombs was scary,” added Nathan Anderson from Rathcoole People’s Group.
A few weeks later, a group of more than a dozen young people from the Fountain took up an invite to visit Rathcoole, Ballyduff and New Mossley.
“They couldn’t believe the freedom we have in our areas,” Nathan added. “Where they live they are basically under siege. We can walk to the shop or go into the town or whatever we want, but they have to worry about what street they’re walking down and they have to go about in groups because of the fear that they’ll get attacked.”
Jack and Nathan said they are hoping to continue the project by inviting the Fountain group back to Newtownabbey at end of August to visit other areas, including parts of Belfast.