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Major cross-community and cross-border programme marks successes

Published on:  07 Dec 2012

The conclusion of a three and a half year cross-community and cross-border programme to bring lasting positive change was today [7th December 2012] marked with a special celebration event in Cookstown.

Over 70 urban and rural groups from across Northern Ireland and the six Southern border counties who benefitted from the ‘Maximising Community Space Crossing Borders’ programme gathered at the Tullylagan Country House Hotel to share their experiences and celebrate their successes.

The Maximising Community Space Crossing Borders programme was funded by the International Fund for Ireland and managed by the Rural Development Council £4,887,750 was made available by the Fund to this programme which was designed to promote good relations, improve the capacity of groups that manage community venues and facilitate the wider usage of existing community halls.

The programme was designed to assist to build the confidence and capacity of groups that manage a community hall via a process of training, study visits, mentoring and support for up to 12 months. Groups were then able to access grants of up to £50,000/€60,000 to improve their facility so that its usage could be maximised. A diverse range of halls were involved including church, Hibernian, Orange, sports, Masonic, cultural  and general community halls. Most used the grants to improve disability access, sanitation, catering facilities and insulation.

International Fund for Ireland Board Member David Graham commented: “The International Fund for Ireland is proud to have provided financial assistance to this programme. It is a prime example of the Fund’s strategy of promoting peace and reconciliation by bringing people together from different backgrounds to improve confidence and capacity, dispel fears and remove barriers to understanding.

“The groups involved in this programme are an inspiration and should be congratulated. They have brought huge benefits across large areas by expanding their reach while providing confidence for communities to move forward and I wish them the very best in continuing their good work in the future,” said Mr Graham.

Rural Development Council Chairman Tony McCusker said: “There has been phenomenal interest and excitement in this programme with 72 groups participating. Groups managing community halls and centres now have increased capacity and confidence, there is greater support for the wider use of these spaces, and better relationships within and between communities have been fostered and developed. Such results illustrate the huge success this programme has brought to local communities and the high level of need that has been unmet until now. Without the financial assistance of the International Fund for Ireland none of this would have been possible and we wholeheartedly thank them for their involvement and commitment.”

Maximising Community Space Crossing Borders programme evaluator Joanne Wallace of Wallace Consulting said: “The Maximising Community Space Crossing Borders Programme is a fantastic initiaitive which has the potential to deliver long-lasting outcomes for both funders and local communities.  It adopts a grassroots approach to tackling issues of weak community infrastructure and capacity through practical, needs-based training and mentoring.  The physical regeneration aspect not only brings buildings, but also communities back to life.

"The evaluation evidence clearly illustrates that participants are now more connected to the wider community and their needs. Groups have worked hard to make their structures more representative and inclusive and as a result feel more positive about sustaining their activities and facilities into the future.  Cross-community networking activities to a range of cultural, community, sporting venues has helped stimulate ideas and establish friendships. In the majority of cases, localised cross-community work has continued post-programme and there is a strong desire and determination to proactively address stereotypes and to make these venues welcoming for everyone.”

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