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Orne Community Partnership

on .

Ophir-Rugby-ClubAlthough they are sited less than three miles apart, Ophir Rugby Club at Mallusk, just north of Belfast, and St Enda’s GAA Club from Newtownabbey’s Hightown Road area, had little or no  contact until they agreed to take part in the International Fund for Ireland’s Integrating Community Organisations Programme.


This programme works to build partnerships between organisations from both sides of the community through a process of training, mentoring and support. Partnerships can then access funding to implement a project that will benefit communities based in the areas in which they operate.

Since coming together, the two clubs have established a single entity known as Orne Community Partnership to implement the project. Based at the Barron Hall in Glengormley, the partnership has developed a number of initiatives to help build better relationships. For example the clubs now offer joint membership, a venture that would have been unheard of only a few years ago.

An early initiative was the establishment of two dialogue forums to explore the influence of both the Irish Language and Ulster- Scots while a number of joint activities have been held at both clubs including a Halloween fireworks display at St Enda’s. One unique idea to get people involved was a drive-in cinema evening. The novelty of the event was attractive but allowed people who attended to decide how much interaction they wanted with others there. These informal and social events are often the beginning of meaningful relationships.

Good Relations Officer, Cathy Young, said another initiative was the exploration of the period around the beginning of World War One. “The focus is on the Battle of the Somme, which led to a huge loss of life among soldiers from both parts of Ireland, and also the Easter Rising in 1916. Men who had fought side by side in the trenches at the Somme came home to a country driven by tension as the Rising took place followed by the War of Independence.”

To prove that improving community relations can never start too young, the two clubs came up with a Christmas drama which was acted by P1-P3 children, introducing them in a fun way to the concepts of good relationships, being fair to everyone and being inclusive. Parents are helping to design the costumes at craft classes, another way of introducing themselves to each other in a non-threatening manner.

In January 2013 eight schools within the clubs’ catchment area undertook six weeks of joint training in Gaelic games and rugby and they will be able to demonstrate their new found skills on a fun day at the end of each week.

Adult players from both St Enda’s and Ophir will cycle from Ravenhill rugby ground in East Belfast to Croke Park GAA headquarters in Dublin. This is aimed at getting the players to know one another and to learn something of the traditions and cultures of each club. It will also raise awareness within the wider community of the benefits of partnership and working together.

According to Cathy Young the project is helping to break down barriers in the area as both clubs are very influential in their own communities and have a significant outreach.