‘Inexcusable’ | 

MLA hits out after sudden deaths of two women in Belfast city centre in three days

The young women died within days of each other
Police at the scene of a sudden death in the Buoy Park area of Belfast City Centre on July 17, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott

Police at the scene of a sudden death in the Buoy Park area of Belfast City Centre on July 17, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott© Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kurtis ReidBelfast Telegraph

The lack of an Executive is no excuse for doing nothing about Belfast’s growing homelessness problem, an Assembly member has said after the sudden death of two young women close to St Anne’s Cathedral in just three days.

A PSNI forensic team was at the scene on Sunday morning in Academy Street where the individual, believed to be a young female in her 20s, became the 14th person to die on the streets of Belfast in recent months.

The previous sudden death of a young woman, believed to have been aged just 19, was reported on Friday afternoon and occurred in Writer’s Square, just yards from the scene of Sunday's death.

She was believed to be homeless and had travelled to Belfast from Bangor, Co Down in recent weeks. Various homeless groups said she was not known in the Belfast area.

The Sunday Life revealed the harrowing extent of the growing drug and homeless crisis in Belfast, with Writer’s Square described as a place where addicts go to get their “latest fix”.

It also documented how many of the deaths of homeless individuals in Belfast are linked to addiction issues and drug use.

Belfast Homeless Service’s Liz Rocks, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph said she is “disheartened” by the number of recent deaths in Belfast, adding something needs to be done.

“It’s only the media which seems to take an interest and care,” she said.

"Other people don’t care because it’s not at their door.

"There has barely been anything said about these deaths by politicians.”

Ms Rocks also spoke to the Sunday Life about the escalation of the drugs problem on the city streets.

“It’s scary, absolutely scary for our future and scary for these people.

"There just doesn’t seem to be any kind of hope this will stop,” she added.

“I fear it will get worse and be passed onto the younger generation, then it becomes normal that we continue to watch open drug use, watching people being totally out of it in the town and continually hear about people dying.”

Stephen Curran, a barber who works from oLo Hair, just minutes from where both the recent sudden deaths took place, said the area is overrun with homeless individuals and drug use.

“It’s very sad, and since post-lockdown, there has been a real surge of drug use in the area. We have a car park out the back and every morning it’s just covered with needles,” he said.

Mr Curran also said there have been incidents of crime linked to drug use in the area, such as a business near the barber shop he works in that was recently targeted in a mid-afternoon break-in.

He said once the would-be burglar was apprehended by police it was clear he was high on drugs.

“It's all about here, and all the age of them is unbelievable. I can’t imagine thinking if it was my daughter or son,” he said.

A manager of one business located close to where the two deaths were reported, who did not wish to be identified, said the presence of homeless individuals in the area “has always been a constant”.

“It’s always been here, I don’t really notice it now, which I guess just says it all really,” he said.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Friday, SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said: “People feel trapped in the system and feel they cannot get out of the cycle of homelessness. The level of death and need is frightening. It’s something we’ve never seen before.”

The PSNI said no details were available regarding the sudden death on Sunday.

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