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Armagh Harps to get £1.1M funding to build community hall and sports complex

Armagh Harps’ GFC has been awarded £1.1 million in funding to build a new community hall and sports complex, with a letter of offer soon to be issued, Armagh I can reveal.

The approval of cash from the Social Investment Fund was confirmed tonight (Tuesday) by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

It comes less than 24 hours after Armagh I exclusively revealed the club’s future planned development.

The Abbey Park scheme is one of nine across the Province to be awarded grants in the latest tranche of allocations from the SIF.

This will see a further £13 million invested in seven capital projects and two revenue projects, which are aimed at tackling poverty and deprivation by providing improved community services and facilities.

The ambitious plans by Armagh Harps will now be able to proceed subject to planning approval.

And as Armagh I reported last night (Monday), an application is currently under consideration by DoE Planning Service.

In revealing the details tonight of the latest successful SIF projects, First Minister Peter Robinson said: “I welcome this additional £13 million investment in nine new projects to deliver the Social Investment Fund under our Delivering Social Change framework.

“Today’s announcement follows on from the first tranche of announced projects and now represents an allocation of over £50million from the Fund.

“We are investing considerable effort to progress further projects and we are determined to see the remaining £30 million funds distributed in the coming months in schemes that will benefit those in our communities most in need.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: “The Social Investment Fund empowers local groups within the most deprived places of our community to provide tangible improvements to their areas and to significantly benefit people on the ground in their day-to-day lives.

“We are confident the projects announced so far will provide effective, outcome focused support to local people in the Social Investment Zones across a range of issues.

“Further work continues with the individual Steering Groups to develop and refine other projects.

“With well thought out and reasoned projects we can ensure the Social Investment Fund achieves maximum impact and delivers positive changes.”

Armagh Harps’ plans, as we revealed, would see the demolition of the existing clubhouse at Abbey Park and a new two-storey facility, complete with changing facilities, gymnasium and facilities for disabled users.

The plans include a corporate shop too, with a sports hall and viewing areas at first floor level.

An Armagh Harps spokesman – speaking before this evening’s successful funding announcement – had told Armagh I: “Armagh Harps have plans to build an indoor sports hall/community hall, children/female friendly changing facilities and a gymnasium/weights room.

“The indoor sports hall would be 20m x 20m and used for sporting and community-based recreational activities.

“The facility would also include four female/child friendly changing rooms and a gymnasium which will be 10m x20m.

“The project will include also resurfacing the current training pitch with a synthetic carpet.”

This would be the latest in a rolling programme of development for the Harps, an Armagh Club with a long and proud history dating back to 1888.

The nine projects announced today have been identified as priorities by steering groups in each ‘zone’ across the Province.

The Harps’ project is the only one in the Southern Area approved this time round.

Letters of offer will now be sent to successful projects following completion of verification and governance checks which are currently taking place.

Work is ongoing to bring forward other schemes to approval stage.

Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has expressed his delight at the news that Armagh Harps GAA Club has been awarded the money to proceed.

He told Armagh I: “This is great news for the club and the Armagh City Community.

“I commend all those involved in helping to bring this community project to the point that the Social Investnent Fund has awarded it £1.1 million.”

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