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Up to 50 coaches set to lose jobs as Sports Programme funding ceases

Up to 50 jobs look set to go after it was confirmed additional funding for the Sports Programme will be not be made available in this financial year.

The Permanent Secretary outlined budgetary constraints as the reasons why an additional £550,000 will not be made available to the GAA or IFA before the April next year.

As a result, up to 50 coaching jobs between the two organisations will go either side of Christmas.

One of those to receive the letter was Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty.

The SDLP representative branded the decision “sickening”.

“The Curriculum Sports Programme has been a flagship partnership between the Department of Education, Ulster GAA and the Irish Football Association,” explained Mr McNulty. 

“The programme has seen thousands of children engage in sports, essential movement and coordination skills as well as physical activity for over ten years now and has employed upwards of 50 coaches on an ongoing basis to deliver the specialised coaching in primary schools across Northern Ireland.

“Today’s decision not to fund the programme for the remainder of the financial year effectively calls time on an a very successful and impactful programme.

“The Department of Education have failed to find the £550,000 to see the programme though to April 2019. “

Mr McNulty added: “I have led cross party delegations along with Ulster GAA and the Irish Football Association to meet the Permanent Secretary and indeed the Head of the Civil Service on numerous occasions imploring them to find the money for the programme to be sustained.

“However, today’s letter from Derek Baker in the Department of Education has come as a major body blow to all involved.

“The irony about Mr Baker’s letter is that whilst he cannot find money for the programme beyond the end of October, he wants to engage with the sporting bodies about the future of the programme from April 2019 and beyond.

“By this stage the coaches will have been made redundant and the will be on the hunt for new jobs.  No joined up thinking, never mind joined up government here.

“This is a devastating blow to the coaches, many of whom will be out of a job for Christmas.

“Both sporting organisations are totally maddened at this decision. The people who are failed most however are the thousands of children who will be denied participation in this programme.

“I am seething with anger, as are Ulster GAA and the IFA and as will be the coaches at hearing this news.

“Let there be no mistake where the blame lies here, right at the heart of our failed political process and our failed government.

“Whilst today we have former ministers from the failed DUP / Sinn Fein Executive scoring points of each other at the RHI Enquiry, children and their physical health and wellbeing is the real collateral damage of their failure.

“No silly slogans or gimmicky posters will be any good to the children impacted by this decision.

“We will now hear promises from the problem parties of “we’ll restore this when the Executive is re-established,” or “blame them not us.

“This is not good enough and is pathetic. I feel really disheartened today.”

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