In one of his first public engagements the new Mayor of Belfast will today (Wednesday 1st June) visit a community project for children and young adults with disabilities in East Belfast. Sinn Fein councillor, Niall Ó Donnghaile will visit the Art Ability project in Agnes Street, just off the Shankill Road where he will meet users and staff of the project which provides respite for parents and young adults with disabilities. Funding for the project was halted by the health department just two months ago.
Councillor O’Donnghaile was born and raised in the Short Strand area of the city where he is well known for his community work and, at 25 years old, is Belfast's youngest ever Mayor.
The Mayor will also meet members and representatives from SIPTU from both sides of the community who are working together to fight the cuts to funding for Art Ability and other organisations that provide essential services to the most vulnerable in society.
According to SIPTU Organiser, Teri Cregan, the staff at the project continued to work on a voluntary basis after funding was cut but have since been forced to look for work elsewhere.
“There has been a blatant disregard for the impact that cutting services such as Art Ability has on parents who depend on the respite, but most importantly on the children and young adults that use the centre.
“Art Ability helps these users lead a much fuller life and it enables them to integrate more fully into their communities and interact much better with other users.
“The callous decision to cease this funding says a lot about the lack of recognition of what centres such as Art Ability mean to local communities and how they help the most vulnerable in our society,” Teri Cregan said.