Belfast Telegraph

Ulster town to offer graffiti and DJ classes

By David Young

Graffiti art and DJ-ing classes are the unlikely activities being used to bring young people together in one of Northern Ireland's most divided towns.

Protestant and Catholic youngsters from Lurgan will also be invited to take part in film making and amateur dramatics as part of the £255,000 initiative to build better cross community relations.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) backed project will initially run for two years in an effort to foster new relationships in a place with an unwanted reputation for sectarian problems.

Supported by the IFI's Community Bridges Programme, it will bring together key stakeholders across education, politics and business as well as from the community and voluntary sectors to develop a strategic plan to tackle division.

A team of young ambassadors aged 15-19 have also been recruited from both sides of the religious divide to promote community relations in the town.

At the launch of the Lurgan Town Project, Anne Henderson, from the IFI, said: "The International Fund for Ireland remains focused on creating innovative ways to promote peace building and reconciliation and help unionists and nationalists throughout the island of Ireland to learn, work and live together in a shared future.

"The town of Lurgan has suffered disproportionately during the decades of conflict and civil unrest in Northern Ireland with the result that neighbours have lived side by side for generations in fear, isolation and violence.

"This project is the first critical step towards bringing these communities together, to work together to create the conditions for reconciliation and build a better future which can be truly shared."

The project has been developed in partnership with Craigavon Borough Council and will be managed by the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) Youth Service.

Gerard Doran, head of youth services, at SELB said: "The SELB Youth Service is committed to the delivery of youth work practice that seeks to address the fundamental impact of community relations on the lives of young people in our communities.

"We very much welcome the opportunity, afforded by the International Fund for Ireland, to develop a particularly innovative approach to such work in the Lurgan area.

"The active involvement of local providers across the communities is the key to maximising the potential of this programme and I wish the various voluntary and statutory partners every success in their endeavours."

The IFI provided around £230,000 in financial support with the rest coming from the council and SELB.

Pro Vice Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast Professor Tony Gallagher was a keynote speaker at the launch of the project.

"The key to a shared and better future for Northern Ireland lies in greater connections between the communities to promote dialogue, at all levels, towards the goals of peace and prosperity.

"The International Fund for Ireland has played a hugely important role in supporting initiatives towards this end and I am very pleased it is supporting this project which promises to transform relationships between young people in Lurgan."

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