A Belfast community trust has launched an inquiry into an increase in suicides among young people in the city, which some fear may have been prompted by moves towards ending the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Richard Black, chief executive of North and West Belfast Health and Social Services trust, said a strategy to support bereaved families and prevent further suicides would follow.

'We don't really know the extent of the problem because the figures are at least six months out of date, but eight or nine young people between 15 and 23 have committed suicide by hanging in West Belfast since Christmas.

'The level of concern being expressed in the community was something that needed to be acted upon,' he added.

The young people's suicides have been concentrated in Belfast housing estates which, until recently, had been marked by sectarian violence.