Church leaders call meeting to discuss estate’s drug problem

CHURCH leaders, politicians and community representatives met with senior police officers in Rathcoole last week to discuss drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and other issues affecting people in the estate.

Among those who attended the meeting at Belfast City Mission on Friday (January 27) were North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, PSNI Area Commander Stephen Reid, Mayor Billy Webb and local Progressive Unionist Party and South East Antrim Community Federation representatives. Churches involved in the talks included Rathcoole Presbyterian, Newtownabbey Methodist Mission, St Comgall’s and Abbots Cross Presbyterian.

Paul Hamill from Belfast City Mission, who organised the meeting, told the Times: “This was just an initial meeting to try to get people’s views about drugs and general criminality in the area and about how bad the problem is and what can be done to tackle it.”

Describing the meeting as “extremely positive”, Chief Inspector Reid said: “This was a welcome opportunity to hear directly from residents, community representatives and local clergy and discuss with them the issues that matter in their community.

“The issue of drug dealing within the estate was one of many items discussed - other issues included domestic burglary and anti-social behaviour. The genuine community interest in the ongoing work being carried out by local police to counter criminality, and identify those involved in drug dealing was obvious and is very much appreciated by myself and the officers who police the area on a day to day basis.”

Mr Dodds added: “I think that getting everybody together - police, politicians, churches and the local community - is very positive and sends out a clear message that people don’t want drug dealing and criminality in their estate.”

Mr Hamill stressed that there will be another meeting organised in the coming weeks to discuss the issues raised further and work out what can be done by the various agencies and organisations to tackle the ongoing problems in the area.