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Sport has big role to play amongst disabled people

Equality in sport is a much sought-after principle in Northern Ireland. Public bodies strive to ensure that there is parity between the perceived pastimes of Protestants and Catholics, but, at the same time, they have neglected the need for equal access to sport for those with disabilities.

In order to achieve equality across the political divide, we are funding three separate stadia - for soccer, rugby and the GAA - instead of one superior, shared stadium.

The same impetus has not been made to ensure that disabled people, who are half as likely to participate in sport, have access to inclusive sporting programmes and facilities.

In recent news, we have learned that Sport NI has reduced the amount of funding given to Disability Sport NI by 50% over the last three years. Cuts of such magnitude send a signal to disabled people that they are not a priority.

Sport has a huge role to play in improving the lives of those with disabilities. As well as having health benefits, it inspires confidence and provides a support network for those who need it most.

Our past has meant that the debate on equality in sport has concentrated on the two ethno-nationalist communities: while this is important, I believe we should focus on the community which needs sport the most - namely people with disabilities.

JASON O'NEILL

Alliance Party candidate, North Belfast

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