Recent Articles

  • Orchardville Workshop
    Photo of Ben from the Highlighter at Orchardville

    On Friday 19th January 2024 Lynsey and Ben from The Highlighter visited Orchardville.

    We were there to tell the service users there about how to read (and write) a news article!

    We played some games about the news, trying to guess what makes real news, how to spot fake news, and even how to write our own articles.

    By the end of the day we had some budding journalists in the room!

    These are some of the articles the Orchardville participants wrote for The Highlighter:

    My favourite things

    by Conor McMurray

    A photo of Conor writing his article
    A photo of Conor writing his article

    My name is Conor, and these are my favourite things.

    I love Disney, and I love Halloween, and Christmas, and Easter, and St. Patrick’s Day, and Summer, and St. Valentine’s Day. ❤️

    I love camping, and Lego Land, and going on holiday.

    I am going to Dubai in January.

    I am going to the pub on St. Patrick’s Day.

    Conor loves McDonalds.

    Conor loves Paw Patrol.

    Conor loves Hillsborough Castle on Saturday. We go for a walk and we go to the café. We get hot chocolate and a sausage roll.

    Conor loves Harry Potter, and also Peter Pan at Christmas in the Opera House.

    Conor’s favourite movies are Madagascar, Shrek, Wizard of Oz, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Polar Express.

    Claire’s Birthday

    by Claire

    It’s Claire’s birthday and she’s going to be 25. Claire is getting another puppy and going to dinner on Saturday night to pizza express.

    Cameron’s Weekend

    by Cameron

    At the weekend Cameron will relax. He watches sport.

    My Week

    by Susanann

    At the weekend Susanann goes out into town and has a drink. Two days a week she goes to her mum.

    Jingle Bells

    By Robert Watson

    A photo of Robert singing and playing the Ukelele
    A photo of Robert singing and playing a ukelele

    Robert sang Jingle Bells with his ukulele. It had tinsel around it and he wore a Santa hat and a Hawaiian shirt with santas on it sunbathing.

    Lynn’s Likes

    by Lynn

    Lynn likes to write poems and looking into the history of Belfast.

    Mysletoe Paper

    by Michael Dimond, Andrew Welsh, Rachael Robbinson and Sam Beggs

    We had beautiful Christmas trees that the boys made.
    – Michael Dimond

    We had a Michael Bublé look-alike who sang White Christmas in the town
    – Andrew Welsh

    I made the beautiful reindeers which all sold out for the Orchardville Christmas fair
    – Rachael Robbinson

    I was a star in the Christmas show Mamma-Mia. I sang my heart out and had a ball. We had a special guest who came the whole way to see it.
    – Sam Beggs

    The Glee Club

    by Hannah

    A photo of Hannah singing.  SHe is wearing a christmas costume that is green with colourful decorations.
    A photo of Hannah singing

    Kurt Hummel

    Blaine Anderson

    Finn Hudson

    Hannah also told us about how the actor who played Finn died because of drugs.

    Orchardville Keeps Wallace Park Clean!!

    By Helen, Adam, Phillip, Kavan and James

    12 enthusiastic participants from Lisburn Orchardville visited Wallace Park one Friday in December, and collected all the litter.

    They noticed when in the park that there was a lot of litter and decided to give it a clean.

    They found lots of rubbish – cans, bottles, crisp packets, smelly doggie bags and much more!

    They had bags and litter-pickers to help the collection. They finished with 5 bags of rubbish!

    Orchardville have now ‘adopted’ Wallace Park to keep it clean.


    by Matthew Allen

    My name is Matthew Allen.

    I am representing Northern Ireland. I have a pool tournament in Larne. I am a great pool player. I won a few trophies. I might be a Special Olympics pool player.

    I am doing it for my country. Back in June 2023 I won the team cup. Back in October I won a cup for overcoming my fear.

    In November 2023 I won the team plate cup. I made the semi final last 4.

    We also have some photos from Orchardville at Christmas!

    We had a really lovely day at Orchardville, and feel very lucky to have met so many wonderful people!

  • Strikes in Northern Ireland

    On Thursday the 18th of January, strikes are happening across Northern Ireland. A strike is when a group of people decide to stop working to show they are unhappy with their work and want their work conditions to be better. In this case, the work conditions are about pay. Many of the jobs that the people striking do are paid much better in other countries like England. People want to be paid a fair and equal wage.

    The people striking include:

    • Nurses
    • Teachers
    • Train and bus drivers

    There is believed to be more than 100,000 people going on strike in Northern Ireland.

    As Northern Ireland still does not have a working government, the UK government won’t give Northern Ireland any extra money to raise pay for these workers. They say that the Northern Ireland government (called the Executive) must start working again and then they will give the extra money. However, not all the political parties (formal groups of people with similar or the same idea about how the country should be managed) in Northern Ireland will agree to restarting the Executive. You can read more about this in our next article which will be published next week on this website.

    Many of the groups of people striking today have plans to strike again in the future if they are not given a pay increase. You may see the people striking in groups holding placards (signs) with slogans on them about why they are on strike.

     It’s important to remember that the people striking are not taking a day off for fun! They are bringing attention to their situation and want to find a solution (answer) to the problem.

  • Makaton Mondays: Interview
    Written by Bartek and Lynsey, December 2023

    The Highlighter News interviewed Claire who runs ‘Makaton Mondays’ on social media. Claire aims to make the world more accessible through the use of Makaton and posts videos of Makaton signs every Monday.

    You can find Claire’s social media pages at @MakatonMondays

    What was your first experience with using makaton?

    My first experience using Makaton was in a special needs school in East Belfast, I was a classroom assistant – we would use it with the children to help aid communication!

    Can you tell us about Makaton Mondays and why you first started it?

    I am currently studying to be a learning disability nurse in Queens University, when I went out on my first placement (an adult day centre) the members all used Makaton to communicate their needs. My mind was blown – I genuinely believed that Mr Tumble had created Makaton and it was just for children. After this placement I spoke to my university to see if we would be learning Makaton to help us to be the best nurses we could be. University said no due to funding so I decided to start Makaton Monday to help others learn whilst I was learning.

    What has been the reaction to Makaton Mondays?

    Makaton Mondays has been and continues to be one of the biggest joys in my life. I have been honoured to win several awards and I even got to go to the King’s Coronation (and sit behind Ant & Dec). I really want to make life accessible to all and I love doing this
    through the use of Makaton.

    The Makaton sign for 'please'

    What was your first experience when you did Makaton to someone?

    To be honest it is as if a door is suddenly unlocked for someone and the joy that someone can understand them is realised. I would use Makaton a lot on my social media, with the
    incredible organisation Mae Murray Foundation and within my university. My slogan is I want to change the world one Makaton sign at a time.

    Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. You can find out more about Makaton at

    Join in with #MakatonMondays by following Claire on social media @MakatonMondays

    Learn more about the Mae Murray Foundation by visiting their website:

  • Northern Ireland Politics
    Written by Michael Slater
    Photo of Stomont buildings in Belfast
    Photo of Stomont buildings in Belfast

    New job titles for First and deputy First Ministers?

    A committee (called the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee) have suggested that the First and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland should be called ‘joint first ministers’ instead.

    The First and deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland are roles given to the leaders of Northern Ireland’s government. One is always from the largest unionist political party and one from the largest nationalist party. They have joint authority and form the head of the government in Northern Ireland.

    The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s report also suggested other changes to Northern Ireland’s politics, such as allowing two politicians from any party to be elected as the leaders, not just one from the largest nationalist and one from the largest unionist parties.

    NI Youth Assembly takes place at Stormont

    In early December a group of young people aged 13 -17 from all parts of Northern Ireland met at Stormont for the Youth Assembly. Stormont is the name of the parliament buildings where the Northern Ireland government meets.

    The Youth Assembly discussed many of the issues that are facing young people in Northern Ireland, such as mental health and climate change.

    American business delegation visits Northern Ireland

    In October a delegation of businesspeople from the USA were in Northern Ireland to take a look at potential investment opportunities. A delegation is a group of people that represent a larger group and the USA stands for the United States of America.

    The delegation was in Northern Ireland for four days and they met with people from companies such as Coca-Cola to discuss the possibility of new jobs and money being invested by America.

    Northern Ireland politicians ‘in talks’

    Northern Ireland’s government has still not restarted since it ‘collapsed’ in 2022. Recently politicians have been having meetings to discuss how they can get the government working again. We will keep you updated in future issues of The Highlighter News.

  • Hamas and Israel Conflict

    You will likely have heard or read about the war taking place in Palestine and Israel. It can be very upsetting to read about – and also confusing. On the next few pages are articles explaining the situation. If you don’t wish to read about it, skip this article.


    There has been conflict in Israel and Palestine for many years. This is due to several reasons, including a dispute about what areas of land belong to which country. There have been many efforts to end the conflict and bring peace, with other countries around the world involved.

    The area in Palestine called Gaza is ruled by an organisation called Hamas. Hamas have been classified as a terrorist organisation. In October, Hamas launched an attack on Israel which was the start of the current conflict.

    A map showing where Israel and Palestine are in relation to Europe and North Africa
    A map showing where Israel and Palestine are in relation to Europe and North Africa

    What is happening now?

    The conflict is continuing in Gaza and other nearby places in Palestine. Many people have been killed and injured. Lots of people have had to leave their homes.

    Hamas has taken people hostage and recently allowed some of these people to go free in exchange for Israel releasing prisoners from Palestine.

    Many politicians have called for a ceasefire, which is a break from fighting.

    Opinions on the war

    Countries around the world are sometimes divided in who they are support. In Northern Ireland, communities can also have different opinions, with some people from Unionist communities supporting Israel and some people from Nationalist communities supporting

    You may also see people arguing on social media about the war. It can be difficult to fact-check during times like these and people may have very different opinions on what is happening. There can also be photos and videos posted that aren’t real or are very upsetting to watch.

    Remember, it can be good to take a break from the news and social media.