Inter Estate Project - Antrim

Samuel Chestnutt never dreamt that one day he would be an advocate for the Peace Impact Programme. The 24-year-old admits that when he was growing up on an interface estate in Antrim he spent many nights fighting and rioting.

“That was what everyone was doing”, he recalls. “There was a real possibility of getting involved with loyalist paramilitary groups.”
Participant Samuel Chestnutt pictured on his trip to Washington DC
Various factions of the UDA, LVF and UVF have a significant influence in Antrim's working class Protestant estate.

Samuel’s life changed when he learned of the IFI funded Inter Estate Partnership (IEP) through the Steeple Defenders Flute Band of which he was a member.

“I thought I would give the Peace Impact Programme a go. I had been a joiner but was out of work because of the downturn in the construction industry. What appealed to me was that the IEP provided training for other jobs.

“I did a course which enabled me to work providing security at events such as concerts or festivals. Already I have been part of the security teams at Electric Picnic, Glastonbury, T in the Park and Aviva Stadium in Dublin.”

Last July Samuel was one of a number of young people from International Fund for Ireland projects on both sides of the border who were chosen to go to Washington DC to address US Aid and members of Congress.

Such was the power of his tale he was selected to be the principal speaker to the Congress members. “Some people had presentations prepared but I just spoke from the heart and told them how life had been. I was a bit nervous but got through it alright.”

Raymond Thompson, the Project Officer for IEP, admits that the paramilitary influence in the estates in the programme – Stiles, Parkhall, Steeples, Ballycraigy and Dublin Road – underscores the need for IEP to identify and support young people in the area.
Raymond also works with a wide range of organisations including marching bands, Orange Lodges, the Apprentice Boys, football teams and church groups. “All of them have large numbers of young people associated with them and they can help tell the young people about the opportunities we offer.”
The project offers a wide range of training opportunities, both accredited and non-accredited including; security, first aid, paediatric first aid, food safety, health and safety, child protection, driving lessons, swimming and Irish Football Association Level 1 coaching.

Four young boys who had been involved with the programme set up their own social economy business delivering football coaching into primary schools.
Other initiatives include visits to such iconic sites as the historic Walls of Londonderry/Derry, the Boyne Centre, Glasnevin Cemetery, the GPO on O’Connell Street in Dublin, Belfast's former Crumlin Road Jail and the Somme Centre in Newtownards.

Raymond says: “We work quite closely with the PSNI who tell us that the level of anti-social behaviour has dropped since the programme began. We have very good community policing in the area and they have built up quite a rapport with local young people, even meeting them for a chat and a coffee.”

He praises the IFI funding because it is so flexible, being used in a multitude of ways to address the needs of its target audience and can be added to money drawn from other sources to broaden the range of our training.

“More than 40 young people have gained employment thanks to our training. We work closely with local businesses to see what skill sets they require and then try to provide them so that they have a local pool of young people to choose from. We use two not-for-profit training companies to provide our programmes and that produces a massive saving for us. Essentially we can train two people for the price of one through normal training firms.

“It is important that projects like ours continue to offer a lifeline to those living in areas that still require a lot of work to tackle sensitive issues. We hope that the project will continue to create a positive future for the town.”

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