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Innovative partnership hailed for its role in transforming communities

on .

231015dk103 WEBAn ambitious six-month partnership aimed at addressing common issues in unionist and nationalist communities has been praised for its role in reducing tensions and turning around young lives in Derry/Londonderry, Ballymena and North Antrim.

The three-way partnership brings together a range of different experiences from ground-breaking work that has been supported by the International Fund for Ireland and pioneered by Leafair Community Association in Derry/Londonderry, Ballymena-based Carson Project and Ultoniae Cultural & Heritage Society (UCHS) in North Antrim.

The cross-community partnership was designed to open new and challenging discussions between previously opposed sections of society and develop new ways to tackle common issues linked to isolation and the legacy of conflict. Engagement with young people has been a key focus and a range of training, skills and employment courses have been delivered alongside activities aimed at improving awareness of the impact of drugs, alcohol and sectarianism.

The International Fund for Ireland provided the groups with £32,890 through its Peace Impact Programme to develop the collaboration. Its Chairperson, Dr Adrian Johnston, said:
“This partnership is a very exciting and welcome step forward for the groups involved and for the communities they serve. It has enabled new joint and inter-area working between strongly Unionist and Nationalist areas that have been equally and deeply affected by complex issues that stem from our recent past.

“A partnership of this nature simply would not have been possible as recently as two years ago. It is a great credit to the vision, ambition and bravery of the groups involved that this project has been able to gain wide acceptance and the chance to support communities to realise better opportunities to develop. Projects like this, which develop innovative approaches to deal with sensitive and contentious issues, are critical to generate greater momentum for positive change and deliver stability and prosperity.”

The partnership’s work takes in the largely Nationalist areas of Leafair and Galliagh in Derry/Londonderry and largely Unionist areas in Mid and North Antrim including Ballymena through the Carson Project, and Dervock, Ballybogey, Armoy, Mosside and Moyarget through UCHS. Members from each area have visited the other groups within the partnership to learn about and understand different aspects of cultural and community heritage.

Cyril Rainey, who coordinated the partnership through the Carson Project, said:
“This has been an important collective step for very different regions that share common problems. The partnership has allowed each of us to gain a richer understanding of the conflict, open important conversations and take forward a programme of activities that improve employability and options for young people. We’ve achieved a great deal in a very short period of time.

“We know that young people in each of the areas are faced with difficult and complex pressures and often believe that opportunities are limited. This partnership has worked to grant access to new skills and opportunities, empower better choices and support positive change. It has been rewarding to see the communities come to together support us and get involved in activities locally and in other areas.”

The International Fund for Ireland awarded £32,890 to the partnership in June 2015 through its Peace Impact Programme (PIP) which looks to address some of the most sensitive, complex and challenging issues within areas where there have been low levels of engagement in peace building.

Previously, in June 2004, the Fund provided £102,736 to Leafair and Carson for a joint project and £25,500 awarded Ultoniae Cultural & Heritage Society. The three-way partnership and both projects will continue until December 2015.