The Children of Ireland Group
P. O. Box 13241, Tallahassee FL 32317
Tel: 850.562.6466 
A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

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March 17, 2004 

The Children of Ireland Group, Inc. today announced a collaborative effort, in partnership with the U.S. based Friendships Without Borders organization, with the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety (Department of Health) and with the responsible authority, the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust to assist in assessing the mental health needs of youth and reducing the tragic trend of youth suicides in Northern Ireland.  Specifically, this collaborative effort aims to determine the feasibility of both organizations assisting the Department of Health in its efforts to reduce adolescent suicides, by providing professional volunteers from the U.S. and other countries, including psychologists, counselors, and supporting staff.   

This effort was begun in February, 2004 by The Children of Ireland Group when the tragic news of thirteen (13) adolescent suicides was announced from areas encompassing North Belfast.    Discussions with the Department of Health identified that the mental health system was eager to draw on international best practice to complement local expertise and services.   

Commenting, J. Terry Ryan, President of  The Children of Ireland Group, indicates, “The horribly tragic suicides of at least thirteen youth in Ardoyne and Glenbryn just since January 1, 2004 reveal the utter hopelessness of youth on both sides of the continuing conflict in Northern Ireland and a mental health system struggling to cope with a wide range of complex needs and very high levels of demand.  Our own efforts since 1999 find these problems can only be addressed at a ‘grassroots level’ of each community by providing appropriate resources to mental health and social services personnel along with community volunteers, in assisting the youth and their families.  We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Friendships  Without Borders as we explore with the Department of Health the feasibility of providing professional volunteers to assist the Department’s own resources”

Clive Gowdy, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, said "With cooperation and commitment, even the most difficult problems can be addressed. Suicides are deeply distressing for everyone and it is important that the factors which cause them are tackled with determination. The collaboration with The Children of Ireland Group and the Friendships Without Borders organisation offers the opportunity to bring international expertise and experience to the work going on in Northern Ireland."

Dr. Niall Mac Allister, President and Founder of the Friendships Without Borders, indicates, “The goals of the community, the family, must be the focus of our social priorities. The expression of the ‘young voice’ of the next generation, the attention, trust and respect it merits – now, with never a greater urgency, is the key to community health, to successful socio-economic development and to their fulfillment. “

Heading up the professional volunteer effort is Dr. Fred Bemak of George Mason University who has done extensive international work in over 30 countries and been involved for the past 3 decades providing consultation and training for mental health, social service, and community organizations and professionals who work with youth.  Commenting, Dr. Bemak indicated, “It is very difficult to experience the loss of our youth and see the children who are the hopes and dreams for our future take such a desperate and final step as suicide.  Our hope and intent is that through this collaborative project we can begin to facilitate the personal and social healing that must take place for our children, families, and communities, contributing to a better world for our next generation and ourselves.”  

Richard Black, Chief Executive of the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust in welcoming the initiative,  commented  “I very much appreciate the interest of  The Children of Ireland and  the Friendships Without Borders organisations in the needs of our young people. The Trust works closely in partnership with our communities to better understand the pressures that young people face and we are determined that the services we provide reflect the  best international practice. This is an important opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from the United States and to share our experiences and learn from successful efforts to address the needs of young people in the United States and elsewhere”.  

The Children of Ireland Group, Inc. is a U.S. based organization providing recreational and educational resources to community centers working with at-risk children and young adults in Ireland, especially, Northern Ireland.  Specifically, it helps community centers provide an alternative to membership in gangs, drug use and violence or resorting to the ultimate despair:  suicide.  Suicide among children and young adults less than 25 years of age is at alarming rates in Ireland, especially, in Northern Ireland.  The goal in providing recreation and education equipment is to help attract “at-risk” children into the centers, provide a safe haven, and allow community social and health workers to work with them.  Secondly and equally as important, the Group hopes its efforts in some way will open doors of opportunities to peace and cooperation between Irish youth, both Catholic and Protestant, and many long-lasting ties with their American friends. 

The Group was founded in 1999 by J. Terry Ryan on his return as an international observer to the July marching season.  The organization is a 501c3 non-profit organization working to make a positive difference in the lives of children and yong adults and offer hope to families who have been directly involved in and affected by years of conflict in Northern Ireland. 

As of December 31, 2003 the organization has assisted over seventy (70) community centers, representing over 16,000 children and young adults.  Funding requests range from arts and crafts supplies, musical instruments, school equipment, books, and conflict resolution books, to sports equipment including camping, canoes and kayaks, along with soccer and football equipment.  An on-going effort to collect used personal computers in the U.S. and shipping them via FedExpress has benefited dozens of community centers and thousands of youth.

For additional information, contact:  

J. Terry Ryan, 
President – Children of Ireland Group, Inc 
Tallahassee, Florida
Work:  850/562-6466 
Home:  850/668-4273 
Cell:  850/321-9352.
Clive Gowdy, 
Permanent Secretary
Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Work:  011-44-2890-520573
Richard Black, 
Chief Executive – North and West Trust
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Work:  011-44-2890-327156
Dr. Niall Mac Allister,
President – Friendships Without Borders
Essex, Maryland
Home:  410/391-3548
Dr. Fred Bemak,
Director – Friendships Without Borders
Professor and Program Director
Counseling and Development Program 
George Mason University
Work:  703/993-3914




The Children of Ireland Group              P. O. Box 13241              Tallahassee FL 32317
Phone:  (850) 562-6466     E-mail:
A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization