Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Commission report reveals impact of the Troubles on mental health in Mid and East Antrim
One fifth of people in Mid and East Antrim have said that their mental health had been affected by the Troubles.
This was one of the findings of a survey carried out last August by the Commission for Victims and Survivors.
The Commission presented its findings to a meeting of the borough council’s Direct Services Committee on Tuesday evening.
Commission Chief Executive Andrew Sloan told the meeting that the role of the Commission is to have the voices of victims and survivors heard and issues considered at all levels of government.
The Commission says that research shows “a need to improve the culture and use of shared public spaces and amenities and the benefits of addressing these in victim-sensitive, trauma-informed way”.
It also considers the impact of memorials and cultural heritage and highlights community safety issues.
The population survey was carried out to seek public opinion on issues that arose through inter-generational and research projects.
The survey also takes into account the impact of murals, kerb painting, bonfires and parades issues.
It has shown that 45 per cent of respondents in Mid and East do not wish to be represented by “unelected community representatives” who are considered to be a “negative influence”.
Mr Sloan also reported that there is a “much more positive view of regulated flying of flags on buildings and a lot more sympathy towards unregulated flags” in Mid and East Antrim than other areas.
“We want to encourage council to look at all the plans they are making and all they develop through the victims’ lens which serves to see how people have been impacted,” he stated.
“It is a bit of an indictment that the democratic process does not look on this as positively as what we may have hoped it would be.”
The Commission has urged the local authority to consider how community relations can be of benefit to victims and survivors.
Currently, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is carrying out a good relations audit.
An officer’s report to councillors says that as a result of the Covid pandemic, the Good Relations Grant Scheme has not had the uptake it has had in previous years.
The report notes: “This is likely due to the fact that community relations is not of utmost importance to groups currently.”
As a result, in 2022/23 only, the local authority will be reducing the budget from £30,000 to £20,000 “to take account of this”.
It also states: “The promotion of good relations at a local level makes a significant contribution to the strengthening of relationships which supports social and economic prosperity amongst our communities.”