Belfast Telegraph

Memo to Stormont: Sport offers more than you think

By Steven Beacom

Cuts, cuts and more cuts. Every day it seems new pain is inflicted as the Northern Ireland Executive grabs hold of the scissors and snips away.

You could say it's the times we live in though they must have got the garden shears out for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure because it seems DCAL has been affected more than most.

I guess it's not surprising, as in many ways DCAL is an easy target, certainly compared with other departments such as Health and Education which will - and should - always be priorities. After all, isn't our well being and ability to learn and develop what life is all about?

I'd say being happy is up there too.

So, what gives you most enjoyment? Spending time with family and friends, going on holiday or perhaps your job? I'll wager many reading this also love sport, playing or watching.

It'll be an important part of your existence; be it five-a-side with your pals, riding your bike, cheering on your local team or taking your children to play sport in the hope that a) they have fun, b) it helps their self esteem, and c) they might become pretty good or even great at it.

Sport NI, the leading public body for the development of sport here, probably plays a bigger role in all of the above than many of you realise, encouraging the population to first participate in sport and then, where possible, excel, aided by their grassroots and elite programmes which have helped numerous athletes succeed on the world stage.

Earlier this week, I revealed in this newspaper that next year's Sport NI budget will be cut by over £1 million. It's a crushing blow to the organisation who know more investment is needed for Northern Ireland sport at all levels to flourish, not less.

We all know that sport can be a wonderful source of pride for the country, but it's worth noting it can also be used as a force for good health and education.

In terms of learning, sport teaches our children a great deal, such as team-work and discipline, building character in the process and health wise the more people you inspire to play sport, the fitter society will be, decreasing the possibility of illness and obesity and increasing the numbers of those feeling better physically and mentally.

Stormont should consider that when the next round of cuts come around.

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