Recognising the Sporting Chance in divided communities

Limavady played host to a mix of internationally recognised sports people and local sports and community groups on Tuesday 26th June at the North East PEACE III Sport for Peace Building Conference and awards evening.

The conference, hosted by BBC freelance presenter Claire McCollum, was held at the Roe Park Resort, and the speakers included; University of Brighton Professor John Sugden, Olympic boxer Wayne McCullough, former Irish rugby international Nigel Carr and University of Ulster academic Dr David Hassan.

Sport for Peace Building is a project that is being delivered by the University of Ulster Sports Academy and is funded under the European Union’s PEACE III programme, managed on behalf of the Special EU Programmes Body by the North East PEACE III Partnership.

The aim of the project is to encourage people to become fully engaged in activities not normally associated with their community background, while using sport as a medium to develop understanding of other cultures. This practical involvement in a safe environment aims to build trust and help challenge negative perceptions and attitudes about others.

Through the ambassador awards the North East PEACE III Sport for Peace Building Project recognises the work involved in creating an atmosphere of equality and diversity through sport within the six council areas of Ballymena, Ballymoney, Limavady, Larne, Moyle and Coleraine. The three Ambassador awards were presented on the night by Wayne McCullough.

The club award went to Coleraine Academy which has the ethos of catering for both excellence and community participation at all age groups. As a result the Academy facilitates sixteen football teams from the ages of nine to seventeen. They assist in the Northwest and Coleraine District Youth League Mini Games Centre at Ballysally, with more than 1000 participants each week; the club have teams in the Ballymoney Friendship League, Northwest and Coleraine District Youth League, Mid Ulster Youth League and the IFA National Youth League. Last summer, the Academy introduced football specifically for girls with the aim of encouraging young females to participate.

All Saints Gaelic Club and Ballymena Cultural Awareness Project won the partnership award. All Saints Gaelic Athletic Club and Ballymena Rugby Club have been working closely together for a number of years; they recently expanded their cultural awareness project to work with under 18 teams. The players took part in a six week programme of cultural awareness and understanding as well as cross skills coaching, with the venue rotating between each club. The programme has seen tangible benefits with players from each club representing the other in competitive matches. It has culminated in 50 young people and coaches taking part in a two day leadership and peace building residential held in Ballycastle in early June.

The Project Award went to Larne Twilight Football Project. This project brings local teenagers together from across the borough of Larne to take part in football with a focus on good relations and integration. The aim is to use football to engage young people and to develop relationships through football, regardless of community background. The project also offers leadership from coaches/volunteers and the delivery of workshops that are particularly relevant to young people including good relations, integration, inclusion and drugs & alcohol.

By involving the whole community in the process, community leaders and local coaches ensure good relations are at the forefront of the project. Through participation these young people are empowered with knowledge and the appropriate skills for everyday life and to help improve society as a whole.

Kyle Ferguson from the University of Ulster’s Sports Academy said: “The conference and awards provided the chance to showcase the opportunities within the area of sport for peace building, to show what can and is being achieved internationally and locally.”

For more information about the North East PEACE III Partnership and the Sport for Peace Building Project visit www.northeastpeace.com