Young volunteers from clubs taking part in the Sport Uniting Communities project have been recognised for their commitment to volunteering.
The project, which is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, is run by the Irish FA, Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby with the Football Association of Ireland acting as an official project partner.
Its overarching aim is to use the reach of each sport to create meaningful and sustained contact between people from different communities and to improve attitudes, respect, inclusion and tolerance with a volunteer development programme and a youth leadership programme being key elements of the initiative.
The Crowne Plaza in Belfast was the venue for the awards ceremony staged as part of the four-year project, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Volunteers aged 14 to 24 from 45 participating football, GAA and rugby clubs across Northern Ireland as well as Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan were recognised for their contributions to their respective sports.
As part of SUC the young volunteers participate in the Volunteer Now Goldmark initiative, which has three sets of awards for volunteering which range from 50 hours, 100 hours and 200 hours.
At the ceremony certificates were handed out to those who have clocked up the hours within their chosen sport by Jane Gribbin of Volunteer Now.
Guests at the event - which was hosted by UTV’s Sara O’Kane - included Irish FA Deputy President Crawford Wilson, Ulster GAA President Oliver Galligan and Ulster Rugby President Gary Leslie. All three addressed the gathering and spoke about the importance of volunteering to the running of the three sports, especially at grassroots level.
A representative from each sport took part in a Q&A session with Northern Ireland Women's International Demi Vance, Ulster rugby player Matty Rae and Tyrone GAA star Niall Morgan taking to the stage.
Those involved in running initiatives at three clubs supported by SUC were interviewed as well. These were Danielle McDowell, Head of Youth at Crusaders Strikers, Newry Rugby Club youth conveyner Rob Rossiter and Elaine McKeown from Tir na nOg GAC.
Since it was launched at the start of 2018 the Sport Uniting Communities project has engaged with thousands of people across Ulster through various programmes including Game Of Three Halves events, Good Relations Conferences, BME projects and local schools visiting the Education and Heritage Centre at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.
SUC activities are delivered by community sport development officers from the three governing bodies.