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Disability Sport NI gets £1m funding boost

By Adam McKendry

Published 08/09/2016

Heat of battle: the NI U19 wheelchair basketball squad in action at Girdwood
Heat of battle: the NI U19 wheelchair basketball squad in action at Girdwood
Big day: NI U19 wheelchair basketball players Aaron Gillen, James MacSorely and Luke Marshall with John News of Sport NI and Kevin O’Neill, Chief Executive Disability Sport NI, at funding announcement at Girdwood, Belfast

The Department of Communities in Northern Ireland have announced that £1million of funding will be invested in disability sport over the next four years ahead of the Paralympic Games which get under way today.

The investment, which was announced by the Minister for Communities, Paul Givan, will be given to Disability Sport NI and will provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to get involved in sport, as well as support and coaching right up to the elite level.

The announcement of the investment coincides with the start of the Paralympic Games in Rio, where nine Northern Ireland athletes will compete for Team GB and Team Ireland, the most ever from this country.

Among the nine competitors are several medal hopefuls, as well as some who are defending their titles from London in 2012.

Jason Smyth will be competing in the 100 metres and will be aiming to break his own world record as well as securing a gold medal, while middle distance runner Michael McKillop is favourite to retain his 1500 metres title as well.

Elsewhere, Bethany Firth has the chance to win four medals in the swimming pool, and is expecting to do so, with Claire Taggart and Katie Morrow are aiming for gold glory in the boccia and wheelchair basketball respectively.

With disability sport in Northern Ireland the centre of attention due to our athletes in Brazil, it's a very welcome investment for Disability Sport NI, who not so long ago had been facing potential funding cuts.

The Chief Executive of Disability Sport NI, Kevin O'Neill, said that he was very pleased with the funding being provided by the department.

"We are delighted and it is fitting that this funding is being awarded on the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Rio," he said.

"We have nine athletes competing in the Games, the most ever from Northern Ireland and we are immensely proud of all of them.

"This funding will secure our future for the next four years, allowing us to help to develop elite athletes and also, just as importantly, introduce more and more people with disability to the joy of taking part in sport," Mr O'Neill added.

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