I was sitting a home on Saturday night when I got an unexpected phone call from Eamonn Mallie, thinking to myself ‘ I wonder what Eamon is looking now’, as this usually only happens when he has a question or two for me?
I’ve known Eamonn for a long time and it’s always good to chat with him. I answered out of curiosity and I enjoyed the conversation.
He was checking about Raymond Smallwoods’ surname, with an ‘s’ at the end or not?
I confirmed the ‘s’!
We went on to reminisce about past events, one in particular being the John McMichael Memorial which was held in the Laganview Centre in Old Warren Estate on 1st November 2012, chaired brilliantly by Eamon. We both remarked just how significant that event was with the bringing together of so many people from such different backgrounds, (Google it) and the effort made by Vince Curry and his colleagues, a really well organised event worthy of John McMichael on the 25th Anniversary of his murder.
We went on to talk about how Loyalism has moved on or changed since that evening and unfortunately the progress for which the South Belfast Ulster Political Research Group had hoped for as a result of such an historic event hasn’t materialised.
We are very concerned about many aspects of Loyalism, the future of our young people in particular, because they are OUR future. We say this repeatedly and will continue to do so. We all need to appreciate how young people feel today, how difficult it is for so many, the temptations they face, the way so many are simply written off and ignored, treated like some sort of nuisance. Some of our young ones do have attitude. Haven’t we all had attitude at some stage in our lives? It’s part of growing up in today’s environment and it isn’t the young that have created this environment. Poor education, no job prospects, no respect or understanding for so many in working class areas, both Catholic and Protestant.
Where is the encouragement or the facilities to help them develop the capacity to improve and be prepared for a better way of life? I’ve spoken to and listened to many teenagers from areas in South Belfast. Social Media has a major influence on their attitude and behaviour. It can be a curse a times with faceless keyboard warriors talking nonsense. Our young people need to be given good advice, the benefit of our experiences so that they can understand that they will see life differently in a few years time. Many will have partners, children of their own and the responsibilities that go along with all that.
We need a better relationship with our young people, to include them in local projects, in conversations and decision making regarding issues that may effect them and/or their Communities. Our young people are OUR future, if we don’t help them prepare for it what might that future hold?