PPI – Northern Ireland Operation’s Team Leader Debbie Byrne reflects on the Belfast Interface Games (BIG) Flagship Event – the Game of Three Halves, a fantastic night for PPI-NI.
On Friday August 8, over 80 young people from North, South, West and East Belfast came together at Seaview Football Stadium in north Belfast for the annual PPI – Northern Ireland Belfast Interface Games (BIG) Flagship Event – the Game of Three Halves. It was a brilliant experience for the children to play in such a great venue with their parents cheering them on enthusiastically on the stands wearing colors that represented each side of the city! Not only did the children play Gaelic football, Rugby and Soccer against the other sides of the city but the children danced, chatted and became strong friends as they moved from station to station. North Belfast ran out as eventual winners but the experience of everyone on the night was that they felt they were part of something very special and positive. The children recognized that they had been involved in something bigger than themselves.
Over the last few years the Belfast Interface Games and the Game of Three Halves have helped to develop young leaders who are better equipped to confront the issues that continue to divide Northern Ireland. The segregation of schools and communities continue to foster traditions of intolerance whereby parade-related disputes and rioting, criminal activity, intimidating displays of flags and murals, and youth-led violence remains commonplace. It is hoped that through participation in cross-community sporting programmes like the BIG camps and this Flagship Event, young people will develop positive personal relationships and therefore be less likely to engage in sectarian-fueled violence in the future.
We are very thankful to the US Department of State and the Department of Foreign Affairs for support our work in this area. The event was facilitated in collaboration with the Governing Bodies for Gaelic Football, Rugby and Soccer. The Ulster Council of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), The Irish Football Association and Ulster Rugby donated their coaching time for free. Belfast Bus Company provided the buses free of charge and Seaview provided the venue at a vastly reduced rate: The US Consul on their Twitter feed said:
— US Consulate Belfast (@USAinNI) August 5, 2014
For two weeks leading up to the games, PPI-NI children have participating in our BIG camps to prepare for the big day. One of the key elements, which helped to make the night such a success was the help of many, volunteers – young and old. Hannah Byrne (daughter of Debbie Byrne) a volunteer on the night and at the BIG camps said, “the night was a brilliant experience! I enjoyed working with the kids and I had a lot of fun.” Niamh Burns who is a PPI Coach in Training and a Senior Champion for Peace said that, “Volunteering for the BIG camps and the Flagship event was a brilliant experience! It was amazing seeing the children working together and playing sports they have never played. This is something I would love to do in the future.”
We are very thankful for all our supporters, partners and funders who made this night such a wonderful occasion, and a special thanks to the wonderful PPI-NI staff!!!