A significant number of coaching jobs based in Armagh city have been saved following an eleventh hour reprieve by the head of the civil service.
More than 50 sports coaching jobs – almost half of those were based at the Ulster GAA headquarters in Armagh – were under threat as an award-winning joint initiative between the IFA and GAA looked set to come to an end on October 31 as purse strings were tightened.
However, a last gasp attempt to save the programme, which caters for 40,000 pupils each year, has been successful.
Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has been a keen supporter of the programme says he’s happy the right decision has been made.
“I’m delighted that the programme will now be saved after I led a cross party delegation to meet the Head of the Civil Service on this matter,” said Mr McNulty.
“We have been working closely with the GAA and the IFA to save the 50 jobs that were under threat as a result of the decision to scrap the programme.
“On Wednesday the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance reallocated funds as part of the October Monitoring Round and allocated an additional £10million to the Department of Education who fund the CSP.
“I immediately made contact with the Permanent Secretary and pressed him on the need for an allocation to be made to the Curriculum Sports Programme.
“There is rightly a focus on encouraging children to maintain a fit, healthy and active lifestyle. All the evidence shows that taking part in sport and maintaining an active lifestyle from an early age doesn’t just benefit a child’s physical wellbeing, it positively influences their mental health, as well as their emotional and character development.
“Decisions of this nature place people in extremely challenging circumstances as their jobs remain under threat. This should never have happened.
“We need political leadership in departments to ensure threats like this are not repeated.”
The South Down MLA said: “Sinn Féin welcome the reinstatement of this valuable scheme. This announcement will be great news to the schools, coaches and children who benefit from this scheme.
“Sinn Féin were to the fore in pressing senior civil servants to reinstate the Sports Development Programme.
“I and party colleagues worked alongside the IFA and GAA from the beginning to coordinate our opposition to this cut.
“Today’s announcement alongside the £10 million being allocated to the Education Department will go some way to redressing the pressures on public services but the threat of Tory austerity continues to loom.
“It is time for the DUP to end their unconditional support for these Tory attacks on public services and the most vulnerable in society.”