New Belfast Roma Hub Launched

The new Belfast Roma Hub, a pioneering project to support the Roma community in the city, has been launched by Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl and Forward South Partnership.

The hub is supported via the Council's EU-funded PEACE IV Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding has been provided by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

Forward South Partnership (FSP) is a south Belfast based community led network whose vision is to have a strong and sustainable community infrastructure which contributes to a healthy and prosperous South Belfast.

At the virtual launch event, Forward South Partnership CEO, Briege Arthurs, reflected on how the charity had collaborated with Council in response to the Covid pandemic and spoke of how enormously proud she was of the role that the community and voluntary sector had played throughout the pandemic.

She said: "There are both sad stories and joyful stories but the story that fills me with most hope is that Belfast City Council worked closely with my organisation to set up and quickly deliver a city-wide helpline for the Roma people across the city.

"The Roma people are one of the most marginalised groups who require very specific support. This was readily available through the good work of foodbank partners, housing rights service and advice organisations whom we brought together to get the best outcome for the Roma people and their families."

Forward South Partnership has also commissioned a digital record of the lived experiences of the Roma people in Belfast, produced by Denis Long. 'A Glimpse of 5 lives' captures the personal views on integration and sense of belonging in Northern Ireland of five Roma/ Romanian residents.
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The Lord Mayor welcomed the investment for the Belfast Roma Hub, under the Building Positive Relations element of the council's PEACE IV Programme, and, acknowledged the impact that this funding will have on sustaining a much needed, well used service designed specifically to support the Roma community in Belfast.

Councillor Nicholl said: "I am committed to the inclusion of every citizen in our city and it gives me great pride to launch the Belfast Roma Hub today along with the suite of opportunities it will offer to empower members of Roma families across Belfast to grow in confidence.

"It is through building strong relationships, characterised by respect and where cultural diversity is celebrated, that people can live, learn and socialise together - free from prejudice, hate and intolerance. Belfast is a great city, a welcoming city and today we welcome this very important service for a very important group of people."

Highlighting the importance of the hub, Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the SEUPB, said: "Unfortunately, as a result of our shared history, many communities have not yet developed the capacity to deal with diversity and difference, which leads to mistrust and division, and as a result a minority groups can feel marginalised and vulnerable. It also prevents the successful integration of new and host communities, leaving our society worse off as a result. This new support hub will help to address this by creating a safe haven which also offers training and support. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in its creation and look forward to hearing more about its success in the very near future."

Councillor John Kyle, from the Council's Shared City Partnership, said: "As Chair of the Shared City Partnership which oversees the implementation of the Belfast PEACE IV Action Plan, I'm delighted to support the launch of the new Roma support hub today. The Action Plan has been designed to be inclusive and provide opportunities for all citizens across the city to be involved in peace building and reconciliation.

"Projects like the hub will provide opportunities to do this - building a shared city for everyone."

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