Shankill 'most deprived area in Northern Ireland'

THE Shankill area of Belfast is the most deprived ward in Northern Ireland.

Belfast has 13 wards in the 20 top poorest districts, according to statistics revealed by Finance Minister Peter Robinson.

The figures, from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency report of 2005, look at seven different factors which contribute to deprivation and give each area an overall score depending on how each factor effects the area.

The deprivation factors, or domains as they are called in the report, are income; employment; health and disability; education, skills and training; proximity to services; living environment; crime and disorder.

Areas in Belfast make up most of the top 10 places on the list, with the top three being Shankill, Falls and Whiterock.

Independent Unionist for the Shankill, Frank McCoubrey, said he wasn't surprised the area came top of the list, blaming a lack of investment.

"We have elected politicians now in Stormont, who are the decision makers. I would be hoping the politicians know the problems in the Shankill and throughout the whole of the city of Belfast and will tackle those problems head on," he said.

"We have been waiting now for many years for regeneration plans to be implemented, bringing housing up to scratch and employment in the area.

"For some reason plans keep on being shelved or appraisals are being done. This can't continue. People are crying out for support.

"Morale is at an all-time low. I'm calling on politicians now to take the initiative and put their money where their mouth is."

Mr McCoubrey said he was arranging a meeting with Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie, to discuss a "clear case of housing crisis".

He said investment in the area needed to safeguard the "character" of the Shankill, and would include good quality affordable homes, new businesses, and more job opportunities to regenerate the whole area.

"We need to stabilise the area and give the children and the grandchildren a future."