interview with Charles Awoyelu concerning the fact that his family have been turned down for a SPED scheme repurchase of their house in Ballybeen, following the racist attacks on them earlier in the year... I had to force myself not to comment on air, as I had already had a conversation with Charles Aweyelu the previous day, and had witnessed his distress first hand... a distress that almost matched that which I witnessed shortly after the actual attack that had hurt his daughter. A few brief comments:
1) Hats off to the efforts of local political representatives, especially Alliance's Chris Lyttle and DUP's Sammy Douglas, who in different ways have championed this family's cause, and to local Housing Executive Officials who have done all that they can to see that the family are appropriately housed.
2) Equal plaudits to members of the Awoyelu's church, CFC at Strandtown, who have supported the family throughout, especially in providing rent-free accommodation over the past couple of months. That is what church should be like...
3) And again, thanks to the wider community in Ballybeen who have spoken out and written books of sympathy in support of the family and in opposition to racist elements in the area.
However, the fact is that despite the declarations of support the family still do not feel that it is safe to come back into the estate to live. Promise, the daughter who was injured, is still not sleeping well on her own, and while the assurances of community and police may go some way to convince adults, 8 year olds who have been hit on the head by a lump of concrete need something more than words.
On the advice of his officers the Chief Constable may not feel he is able to sign off on the SPED application because there is supposedly no threat to life, but, frankly there have been no arrests of those responsible, so no-one can guarantee that such an attack, or worse will never happen again. One member of the community on Tuesday suggested cynically that police, and indeed paramilitaries caught up in feuds have been beneficiaries of the SPED scheme without ever having experienced an attack on their homes... yet here is a family who have known the reality of such a threat, yet now find themselves severely economically as well as emotionally penalised.
We can ill-afford to lose such good families from Ballybeen, but I do hope that the Chief Constable reviews his decision.