A major peace project, backed by the International Fund for Ireland, will establish seven new working groups, including one in Randalstown.
The 20-month Peace Impact Project received almost £100,000 and was developed by Magherafelt-based Sperrin Cultural Awareness Association to support community groups that have had limited or no involvement in peacebuilding activities to date.
The initiative aims to open new discussions on sensitive and divisive issues and will also seek to improve development and employability options for young people who may be at risk of engaging in antisocial or unlawful behaviour.
Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said the project would challenge communities to look at new ways to engage with marginalised young people.
“This project will support multiple communities to look at how they can develop positive solutions and resolve difficult local issues. It will open new pathways to overcome divisions linked to our past and provide opportunities for young people to improve employment prospects,” Dr Johnston said.
He added: “The Sperrin Cultural Awareness Association is relatively new but already doing exceptional work and this project is a bold step forward. We recognise the stabilising effect this project can have on young people who might otherwise engage in anti-social or unlawful activities. Efforts can generate greater momentum for the positive change we all want to see.”
Darren Richardson, Development Officer at Sperrin Cultural Awareness Association, added: “This project focuses on making progress in a number of very sensitive and challenging areas. The seven locations have been selected because of the nature of the divisive and contentious issues that are present locally and the potential for communities to agree on positive resolutions.
“Many of these locations have only had limited involvement in other peace building initiatives and we are realistic about what can be achieved.
“Division and disaffection are complex issues that continue to affect communities and young people in particular. This project will coordinate new community responses that can create fresh opportunities for dialogue and establish training and employment support. We have been greatly encouraged by the discussions and support we’ve received and invite anyone with an interest in becoming involved in this project to get in touch.”
The seven SCAA local steering groups will include groups that do not usually work together or have not engaged in peace building activities and will be established in Garvagh, Castledawson, Tobermore, Randalstown, Maghera, Magherafelt and Upperlands.