14/05/2008

Maze 'Ignored' As UK Sports Cabinet Meets

While controversy continues to surround the proposed creation of a Northern Ireland Sports Stadium - most recently with news that local sports chiefs said there was no viable alternative to the original proposal for the former Maze prison outside Lisburn - a high profile delegation is today in Belfast to discuss Northern Ireland's overall sporting potential.

The UK Sports Cabinet meeting was held in Belfast today and was hosted by NI Sports Minister Edwin Poots.

He welcomed the Sports Ministers from England, Scotland and Wales to Northern Ireland to discuss the issues affecting sport across the UK.

Speaking at the event in W5 at the Odyssey, Minister Poots commented: "The purpose of the UK Sports Cabinet meeting is to pool together the expertise and learning points from other regions and nations in the UK.

"I hope that through this meeting we can share best practice and help to put Northern Ireland's sporting culture on an even firmer footing for the future,' he said.

Scottish Sports Minister, Stewart Maxwell, Welsh Sports Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas and English Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliff are visiting the region where they will meet with the Chairs of the respective Sports Councils.

Minister Poots continued: "I trust the meeting of the Sports Cabinet will be mutually beneficial for all involved.

"While we can learn a lot from our counterparts in the UK, there is a wealth of knowledge and skill here at home which I'm sure they will equally benefit from."

Pointedly making no reference to the much-debated multi-purpose stadium proposed for the same area, Mr Poots had previously joined with Scottish Minister Stewart Maxwell to visit various facilities in Lisburn.

On Tuesday, the pair went to see how Lisburn City Council has been working in partnership with the education sector, community groups and sports clubs to maximise the use of local facilities.

The Ministers were at Laurelhill Sports Zone, a dual use outdoor facility at Laurelhill Community College, including a floodlit astroturf pitch and changing facilities used by the College during school hours, and by sports clubs and the local community in the evenings and at weekends.

The Ministers also visited Ballymacash Primary School in the City to view plans for a new multi-use games area and later travelled to Hillsborough Village Centre, which is now working well as a dual use venue in conjunction with Downshire Primary School, providing both indoor and outdoor community and sports facilities.

Minister Poots said: "Dual usage of sports facilities is the most effective way to maximise the use of local resources by both schools and the wider community.

"In Lisburn and across Northern Ireland there are excellent examples of the success of this partnership and I am pleased to show the Scottish Sports Minister these facilities first hand."

See: Talking Time Over On Stadium

(BMcC)

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