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DUP Minister Paul Givan championing sport while making time for his young family

By Steven Beacom

Paul Givan says he will continue to fight for sport next year and beyond, declaring that it can meet many of the objectives set by the Northern Ireland Executive.

After the Lisburn man took up the Minister for Communities post in May, in his first interview in the role he told the Belfast Telegraph that he wanted to be a 'champion of sport'.

There are few who could say that he hasn't tried to stick to his word having handed over significant funds to a raft of different sports, attended numerous sporting events and held many positive discussions with sporting officials. So far, sport in Northern Ireland can be pleased with his efforts but Givan says there is much more work to do.

"I'll let the commentators and sports people decide if they feel I'm being a voice for sport. I certainly have ensured that it has been one of the top priorities for me in the Department and in terms of the events I go to, the engagements I'm involved in, sport dominates heavily in terms of the activities I'm taking part in," he says.

"In the first six months I've tried to meet with as many people as I can across sporting organisations because that's how you can build relationships at a whole range of levels. I've also sought to give recognition to our sporting stars which helps lift the profile of sport.

"I love sport and will continue to fight its corner and we are already seeing successes six months in.

"Currently I'm in the process of dealing with my budget. I have put in significant bids. I have met with the Finance Minister and I have articulated a view that sport can meet so many of our objectives in the programme for government.

"I am definitely putting forward a strong bid in regards to investment into sport and there is potential to do more and build on what we have been doing."

Givan admits the intensity of the role limits family time with his wife Emma and daughters Annie, Hollie and Maisie.

"Every day I wake up there are opportunities that you have to grasp," said the former chair of the Justice Committee.

"You could easily let this job run you down with all of the work that goes on behind the scenes that nobody sees, the paperwork, submissions, correspondence, questions from MLAs and all of the big ticket issues I'm dealing with like welfare reform, pensions, benefits, housing, and there you are talking hundreds of millions of pounds in terms of expenditure, billions when you take in our pensions.

"This department's got a budget of over seven billion pounds a year - it's the biggest department in the Executive so there is a huge amount of work.

"This department I think, more than others, is very much front facing with the community whether it is sport or volunteers. This is very much at the grass roots which means I need to be out there engaging with the community and that's where you get the feedback which is important.

"The job is intense. It has taken over my life. I see the kids in the morning when they are going to school and typically I don't see them until the next morning," he says.

"I do my best to see them in the evenings but by and large I would say the average day is get the kids to school and then my meetings roll in for the rest of the day and I get home around 9pm or 10pm, then you have paperwork to read over.

"My Sundays are the day of rest for me," he says.

"Not least as a Christian, but it is the one day where I can set aside and say this is for the kids and unless there is a major crisis I don't engage in work.

"Being busy is part of the job and that's what I signed up to and I love the job I'm doing."

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