Three key sports organisations in Northern Ireland have come together to launch a new programme aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation through sport and physical activity.
The Irish Football Association, Ulster Rugby and Ulster GAA have joined forces to create ‘Sport Uniting Communities’, an initiative funded by the EU PEACE IV programme.
It is expected that the project will reach 17,000 people from different backgrounds, particularly across the political divide in Northern Ireland, with the aim of changing perceptions and building sustained relationships.
Using the power of sport to enable and support integration and community cohesion, the programme will incorporate a range of activities based on education, training, empowerment and leadership directed to volunteers and clubs.
Irish FA president David J Martin said: "Sport has the power to bring people together. We have seen the positive effect that football has on communities across Northern Ireland, both in terms of the health benefits of playing the game as well as the shared experience of competing, spectating or volunteering.
“I am therefore delighted that the Irish FA is working with both Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby on this ambitious and far-reaching project. With the three sports working together I have no doubt that 'Sport Uniting Communities' will make a lasting impact on Northern Ireland and will make a positive and enduring difference to people across the country."
Ulster GAA vice-president Oliver Galligan commented: “By using sport to promote contact between individuals from diverse backgrounds, the partnership has helped to break down barriers within communities.”
IRFU Ulster Branch president Graffin Parke added: "We look forward to working together over the next four years, using sport as the medium to enhance relations and promote positive change throughout our communities.”
Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.