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A new £70,000 state of the art community sports facility was opened last week during a visit to St. Paul’s High School in Bessbrook by Social Development Minister, Meryvn Storey MLA.

Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA, is joined by pupils Kacper Janik (left) and Blaise McKnight as he tries out the equipment at the new sports facility at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook. Photograph: Darren Kidd / Press Eye
Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA, is joined by pupils Kacper Janik (left) and Blaise McKnight as he tries out the equipment at the new sports facility at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook. Photograph: Darren Kidd / Press Eye

The new facility was delivered with contributions from the Department for Social Development, Ulster Rugby and the Big Lottery Fund ‘Awards for All’ programme and includes a wide range of fitness apparatus such as spinning bicycles.

Speaking at the opening Minister Storey said: “Sport develops and enriches communities and there are clear links between sporting activity and improved health and well being. This new sports facility at St Paul’s will allow both the young people attending the school, the staff, and the wider community to avail of state of the art amenities thereby opening further opportunities and forging stronger cross community links.”

The DSD grant (£29,187) was used to convert a PE storage area into a fitness facility to house the sports equipment provided by Ulster Rugby and the Big Lottery Fund. As well as being used by the school, the new facility will also support the school in its outreach activities such as the ‘best ball buddy’ community sport initiative which gives children from both sides of the local community an opportunity to be active and healthy in a total neutral setting with sport acting as the back-drop.

Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, Principal Jarlath Burns (front left) and John Boyd, Chair of IRFU (centre) test out the spinning bikes at the new sports facility at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook. Photograph: Darren Kidd / Press Eye
Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, Principal Jarlath Burns (front left) and John Boyd, Chair of IRFU (centre) test out the spinning bikes at the new sports facility at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook. Photograph: Darren Kidd / Press Eye

St. Paul’s High School Principal, Jarlath Burns said: “I would like to thank the Minister for coming here today to officially open our new facilities. St Paul’s has served this area for almost 60 years, making its facilities available to the local community. The new fitness facility will, therefore, make a major contribution towards addressing social exclusion in this area of need.”

During his visit the Minister also made reference to an earlier DSD funded project which assisted three local primary schools upgrade their IT facilities. The Schools that benefitted from £35,000 investment were St Joseph’s Bessbrook, St Peter’s Cloughreagh, and Bessbrook Primary School.

Minister Storey concluded: “These projects are excellent examples of joined up working involving a range of public sector partners coming together to make a difference to the lives of residents living in areas of disadvantage. They provide enhanced opportunities to improve health, education, and recreation for people of all ages and are a further demonstration of the Department’s commitment to promoting regeneration.”

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