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Robinson attends opening of East Belfast Network Centre 

First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA has attended an event to officially open the £3.7million East Belfast Network Centre.

The community building which was the former Templemore Avenue School, received funding of over £2million from the Department for Social Development’s Modernisation Fund Capital Programme and Neighbourhood Renewal Investment Fund and will significantly increase capacity and facilities for community and voluntary organisations in the East Belfast area.

Speaking at the official opening, the First Minister Peter Robinson said: “I welcome the opening of this £3.7million East Belfast Network Centre which represents a tremendous boost for the local East Belfast area. 

“Through its ‘Together: Building a United Community’ proposals, the Northern Ireland Executive is committed to build a more cohesive, shared and prosperous society.

“I have no doubt that these new facilities will greatly improve shared services for whole community and contribute to reconciliation by providing a shared space to which the entire community can have access and benefit from.

“I commend this project representing the culmination of years of hard work and vision by local people and will go some way in helping to tackle the social and economic problems that exist in this community.” 

Referring to the new facilities Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said: “I am pleased to support the launch of the East Belfast Network Centre and have no doubt that the new facilities on offer will greatly benefit the partner organisations and the communities which they serve. The Modernisation Fund has been very successful in improving services and in promoting much needed change within the voluntary and community sector.

“From a Neighbourhood Renewal perspective, the East Belfast Network Centre provides an important hub for community based activity in East Belfast. As a focal point, the building offers a great opportunity to create community cohesion in Inner East Belfast and contribute to reconciliation across the interface through providing a shared space to which the entire community can have access and benefit from.”

Mike Smith Chair of Templemore Avenue School Trust said: "To be able to bring this wonderful building back to life for the community of East Belfast is a wonderful achievement. 

“When the Templemore Avenue Elementary School opened in 1926 no one could have anticipated that in 2014 it would take on a completely new role within the community and whilst not functioning as a school, it is now home to a number of community and voluntary organisations who are providing a service to the community which the school also served. This is an excellent good news story for East Belfast."

International Fund for Ireland Chairman Dr Adrian Johnston said: “This is an exceptional facility that will enable the local community organisations to increase their impact in the local community and develop and promote regeneration and community integration. The work here aligns with the Fund’s objectives of delivering sustainable, long-term positive impacts that can transform communities and underpin peace building and reconciliation efforts. There is great support for projects such as this and on behalf of the International Fund for Ireland I wish all who work and benefit from it every success for the future.”

This project included the purchase and renovation of a historical primary school in East Belfast. This facility now provides much needed facilities for the community and voluntary sector in the area and includes conference rooms, meeting rooms, advice services, counselling services and youth facilities. 

The project has been funded International Fund for Ireland £900,000; Princes Trust £25,000; DOE NIEA £247,000 along with self financing and donations amounting to over £80,000.

The new centre was officially opened by Esther Hamilton a former pupil of Templemore Avenue School. 

Notes to editors:

1. The objective of the £15million Modernisation Fund Capital programme is to support voluntary and community organisations to modernise to enable them to become more sustainable and deliver new and better services in an era of change. The programme will encourage collaboration and resource sharing among voluntary and community groups and will be managed across the schemes making up the programme.
2. The project also received funding of £900,000 from the International Fund for Ireland, £25,000 form the Princes Trust and £247,000 from NIEA to assist with heritage renovation within the property.

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