Cullybackey awarded ‘safe village’ title

A County Antrim village has been awarded the title of ‘safe village’ thanks to the far-sightedness of a Christian Aid charity shop manager.

Oonagh Dalton (first left) received her award from Paula Hillman of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, watched on by Coleen Christie of Cullybackey Methodist Church.]

Oonagh Dalton was the catalyst for Cullybackey’s accreditation as a place where people experiencing domestic violence can receive initial help.

Oonagh, who with husband Michael manages The Changing Room on Main Street, took part in domestic violence awareness training offered by OnusNorthern Ireland and Women’s Aid, and persuaded four other local businesses to follow suit.

Once five businesses had been trained up, Cullybackey qualified for the title of ‘safe village’.

Oonagh, who recently collected the award at a special ceremony at Belfast City Hall said: “We don’t offer advice but we do offer a listening ear and we point people in the right direction to seek professional help.”

The ‘safe house’ and ‘safe village’ awards come just a year after the couple completed an eight-month-long restoration of a 200-year-old heritage building in the village, bringing it back into use as a Christian Aid charity shop.

They manage the shop without payment, living out their Christian faith by raising funds for the agency’s work with the poor.

Oonagh said: “Once I became aware of the ‘safe village’ scheme, I was on a mission to involve as many local businesses as possible and I am so happy to say that Cullybackey is now listed as a ‘safe village’ with zero tolerance to domestic abuse.”

She has wasted no time in putting her training to good use.

“There have been visitors to the shop who have opened up about their experience of domestic abuse, both physical and verbal. Verbal abuse is now recognised as coercive control in most of the UK but sadly not yet here in Northern Ireland – this is a challenge for our politicians at Stormont. But it’s amazing how a listening ear and a kind word can lift a person and help them see they’re not alone,” said Oonagh.