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Connect 4 Conference looks at ' Creating a Positive Future'

on .

Connect_4__WebA unique community project hosted a special two-day event in Dublin today (19th November). Organised by the Northside Partnership in Dublin and Groundwork Northern Ireland as part of the Connect 4 Project, the event  outlined how communities can work together around common needs with the objective of better using scarce resources and developing a better future.

 The conference also focused on the intertwined themes of Regeneration, Community Activism, Community Safety, and Youth Engagement.

 

An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore TD heard how communities who in the past seldom met, were now working together to look at issues of common interest.

The two-year Connect 4 Project is funded by the International Fund for Ireland’s Community Bridges Programme and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Groundwork Northern Ireland’s Ciarán Shannon explains; “The purpose of Connect 4 is to create meaningful and sustainable cross-border, cross-community partnerships between voluntary, community and statutory organisations in north Dublin and north Belfast.

“Over the last two years we organised study visits, cultural exchanges, cross border community work placements, seminars and focused exchanges of views.

“The project has allowed a space for groups who would not normally meet to explore common interests and to look at issues that impact on the lives of individuals living in difficult times.

“That was done with the two traditions in North Belfast and Dublin and was an incredibly positive and enlightening experience for all.

“We have found many similarities between the three communities but this event will now allow us to also look forward to addressing common issues.”

Odran Reid from the Northside Partnership; believes; “If there is one thing to learn from the overall programme, it’s that people who live in marginalised communities have a lot more in common than they have that separates them.

“This does not matter if it’s Dublin, Belfast, London or Glasgow.

“Every issue we looked at showed that poorer areas lack investment and people who live there struggle to find a way forward that will give themselves, their families and their neighbourhoods a better future.

“This project has given people a unique opportunity to look into each other’s lives, to meet each other and to share experiences and stories in public and in private.

“We have built relationships beyond existing comfort zones and people have visited areas that they never thought would have been possible.

“This conference looks at the future not the past. It takes our four key themes and integrates them. It looks at how we can create a new inclusive future, where civic society can find a voice, and how we start looking for solutions.”

Day one of the conference will be held at Panell’s GAA club in Coolock in north Dublin and the focus shifts south of the River Liffey on the second day, as delegates assemble at the Smock Alley Theatre.

International Fund for Ireland Board Member, Billy Gamble, also spoke at the event. He said; “Marginalised and divided communities in Dublin and Belfast have been among the hardest hit by the economic decline, but in both cities, the Connect 4 Project has found that limited financial resources are not deterring people from thinking about regeneration.

“There is real ambition and innovation which, if channelled correctly, can lay the ground for serious plans for transformation and prosperity.

“The reality is that people who live in these areas understand the issues best and what is now needed to implement positive change.

“It is clear that advancement will require collaboration between communities, the governments and the private sector and it is time to look at how meaningful partnerships can be established to maximise scarce resources and attract further support.”

 

Organisations participating in the Developing a Positive Future Conference included: Dublin City Council, Belfast City Council, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Fatima Mansions Regeneration, Newington Housing Association, NorDubCo and the North Belfast Community Development and Transition Group.

 

Contributions were also heard from Ballymun Drugs Task Force, Belfast Community Radio, New Lodge Safer Streets, Northside Community Law Centre and City of Dublin Youth Services Board.

 Click here to download press release