Monday, 27 June 2016

Foster and Givan join rapturous homecoming for Northern Ireland football team

First Minister Arlene Foster and Sports Minister Paul Givan joined the Northern Ireland football team tonight as they received a heroes’ welcome on their return home from Euro 2016.
At the official homecoming event at the Belsonic Fan Zone site at Titanic Quarter, thousands of fans welcomed the team back to Belfast with resounding cheers.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I want to congratulate Michael O'Neill and his players for creating history in France by securing Northern Ireland’s first ever appearance at a European Championship.
“I am immensely proud of each and every member of the team.  Reaching the last 16 was a major achievement for Michael and his players. It gave people throughout Northern Ireland amazing shared experiences, pride and memories that will stay with us for a very long time.
“The professionalism of Michael and his team shone through at Euro 2016. The dedication and camaraderie within the squad and the bond between players and supporters has been truly remarkable.
“I pay special tribute to our Green And White Army who won friends from across Europe with their good humour, spirit and banter.
“Our team and our fans were a fantastic advertisement for all that is great about Northern Ireland and I commend them all.” 
Sports Minister Paul Givan said: “This vibrant homecoming reflects the pride and delight that has been felt across Northern Ireland as the team qualified and competed in Euro2016. Michael O’Neill and his players have displayed great spirit and determination during their historic time in France and have been an inspiration. Tonight’s homecoming event is an opportunity to honour the team and celebrate their achievements.”
Speaking about the support for the Northern Ireland football team, Minister Givan said: “The green and white army who travelled to France have supported the team with loyalty, passion and enthusiasm. The friendliness and cheerfulness of our fans has been noted around the world, making them great ambassadors for our country. This positive support for the team has been shared by people at home. It is not only natural football fans who have taken an interest. Right across Northern Ireland and the world, people have been in awe of our team and fans.”
Patrick Nelson, Chief Executive of the Irish FA said: “The support from the fans and supporters has been phenomenal and tonight's event has been a wonderful and fitting end to an incredible journey. On behalf of the Irish FA, the team and Michael O'Neill, I would like to say a massive heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported us and to the Department for Communities, who in conjunction with Belfast City Council and Belsonic, put on a fantastic homecoming celebration."
The Department for Communities in conjunction with the Irish FA, Belsonic and Belfast City Council hosted the homecoming event.

Notes to editors:

  1. The homecoming was a ticketed event due to health and safety reasons. There was a nominal £2 admin charge per ticket, £1 of which will go the official charity of both the Irish FA and Fan Zone, which is NI Cancer Fund for Children.
  2. Media enquiries to Department for Communities Press Office, telephone: 028 9082 9233 or email  Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.
  3. Follow us on Twitter @CommunitiesNI

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Givan: The boys are coming home

26 June 2016

Sports Minister Paul Givan has today announced a homecoming event for the Northern Ireland football team.

The Minister said: “I am pleased to announce that my Department in conjunction with the Irish FA, Belsonic and Belfast City Council will be hosting a homecoming event for the Northern Ireland football team.

“The event will take place at the Belsonic Fan Zone site at Titanic Quarter on Monday 27th June and will give the fans the opportunity to see the team as they return from their historic journey in France.

“Michael O’Neill and the team have made the whole country proud and it has been fantastic to see the green and white army getting behind their team, both in France and  back home.”

This will be a ticketed event and tickets will be available today from 6pm via the Ticketmaster website –  There will be a nominal £2 admin charge per ticket, £1 of which will go the official charity of both the Irish FA and Fan Zone, which is NI Cancer Fund for Children.

Michael O’Neill and the players will be on stage to share their experiences at Euro2016 in France.  Doors open at 5pm, with the event commencing from 5.30pm. It is expected to finish approx 8.30pm.

Parking is not available at the venue so fans are encouraged to use public transport.  Please note the site has limited capacity.

Notes to editors

1.    This event is ticketed for health and safety reasons.

2.    Limited ticket availability for this event.

3.    Follow us on Twitter @CommunitiesNI

4.    Media enquiries to Department for Communities Press Office, telephone: 028 9082 9267 or email of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

£2.2million investment by Executive is providing valuable training and employment experience for South Belfast – Ross

Junior Minister Alastair Ross today attended a celebratory event to recognise the achievements of the Employability South project in its first year of delivery.

The Employability South project aims to improve employability and create meaningful pathways to employment by providing valuable training and paid work placements to the long term unemployed in South Belfast. Funding of £2.2 million was provided by the Northern Ireland Executive, through the Social Investment Fund, for the delivery of the project.

Speaking at the event, Junior Minister Alastair Ross said: “Supporting people to enhance their skills and expertise so they are better placed to secure employment has been an important issue in communities for a long time.  I am therefore pleased that the Northern Ireland Executive, through the Social Investment Fund, was able to provide £2.2million of financial support for this very worthwhile project which will directly benefit the people of South Belfast. 

“The Social Investment Fund was introduced to allow communities to bring about change for themselves. It is focused on working together to empower communities to identify their own needs and develop proposals to address them. The Employability South project is a perfect example of that. A community coming together to design something which will really help those who need support to improve their life chances.

“Already over 120 people have benefitted from this project. Sixteen have secured employment, some are continuing their placements and others have gained recognised qualifications thereby improving their employment prospects. That really is delivering social change.”

Greater Village Regeneration Trust is managing the project which is being delivered by GEMS NI. The project will engage 375 participants and will continue until March 2018.

The Minister concluded: “I want to congratulate all those involved in this worthy project. Greater Village Regeneration Trust and GEMS NI for delivery of the project, employers for their contribution in offering placements to local people and participants who have taken up the opportunity to make a difference to their lives.”

Notes to editors:

1. Media enquiries to The Executive Office press office on 028 9037 8201. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

2. Delivering Social Change is the Northern Ireland Executive’s framework, set up to tackle poverty and social exclusion. It aims to deliver a sustained reduction in poverty and associated issues across all ages and to improve children and young people’s health, well-being and life opportunities thereby breaking the long term cycle of multi-generational problems. For more information go to:

Givan discusses the role of the arts in communities with Israeli representative

Communities Minister Paul Givan MLA today met with Dan Golan, Cultural Attaché for the Israeli Embassy, at Parliament Buildings.

Speaking after the meeting, Minister Givan commented: “The Jewish community has played a significant role in Northern Ireland society and cultural life over many generations. This meeting was a useful opportunity for Dan Golan and I to work together and discuss the positive role the arts can have in strengthening and deepening relationships between cultures and communities.

“I outlined my belief that everyone has a right to creative and cultural expression, and my Department’s ongoing work to develop an overarching Culture and Arts Strategy which will recognise and support interculturalism and cultural diversity.

“It is clear from today’s discussion that we have a shared interest in the arts as a catalyst for building mutual understanding and respect throughout society.”

Mr Golan met the Minister as part of a series of engagements in Northern Ireland. The meeting was also attended by Dr Katy Radford, Institute for Conflict Research, Steven Jaffe, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel and Gerald Steinberg, Vice Chairman of Belfast Jewish Community.

Notes to editors:

  1. Media enquiries to Department for Communities Press Office, telephone: 028 9082 9233 or email: Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned
  2. Follow us on Twitter @CommunitiesNI.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Givan salutes Northern Ireland team’s performance

Sports Minister Paul Givan has praised the Northern Ireland football team for putting in such a good performance against the world champions, Germany, in this evening’s European Championship final group game.

Speaking from Paris after the game, the Minister said:  “Despite the result the team can be justly proud of the display they put in against the World Champions.  Germany have without doubt one of the strongest most experienced squads in the tournament, yet Northern Ireland gave them a very tough game.  Particular praise must go to Michael McGovern who had one of the best goalkeeping performances of the tournament so far.”

The Minister added:  “Again the Green and White Army cheered the team on from the first to the last minute – they have been fantastic ambassadors for our country.  I hope now that the team and our fans, both at home and in France, will be rewarded with a place in the last 16 of the tournament as one of the best 3rd place finishers.”

Notes to the Editor

  1. Media enquiries to Department for Communities Press Office, telephone: 028 9082 9233 or email  Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned
  2. Follow us on Twitter @CommunitiesNI

Monday, 20 June 2016

Fearon and Ross present awards to young people and youth practitioners

Junior Minister Megan Fearon and Junior Minister Alastair Ross have presented awards at Youth Link’s Annual Certificate Presentation Ceremony held in Grosvenor House, Belfast. 

Youth Link is a collaborative partnership of the four larger churches in Ireland and awards were presented to around 300 youth practitioners and young people from the churches who have taken part in Youth Leadership training programmes, Community Relations and Active Citizenship Youth projects.

Speaking at the event Junior Minister Megan Fearon said: “Our young people make an immense contribution to society and the future belongs to them. It’s fantastic to see so many young people and youth workers receive much deserved recognition for the training programmes and projects they’ve undertaken.  

“Youth Link provides important community relations work and tonight is a shining example of that. My Department works closely with Youth Link through another area of its work, the Together Building a United Communities Summer Camps programme. I’m delighted The Executive Office has been able to provide nearly £15,000 in funding to Youth Link for its 2016-2017 summer camp. Without funding, these programmes simply wouldn’t be possible so I’m pleased together we were able to make it happen.

“Tonight though belongs to the young people. You are the leaders of tomorrow and as the youngest MLA in the Assembly, you are a major source of inspiration not just to me but to your community and beyond.”

Junior Minister Alastair Ross said: “I commend Youth Link for the important role you play in building peace and improving community relations in Northern Ireland and I congratulate all the young people who are being recognised this evening.

“The Northern Ireland Executive has a shared aim to continue to improve attitudes amongst our young people and build a community where they can play a full and active role in building good relations. The Summer Camp Programme is one of the Executive’s headline actions in our Together: Building a United Community strategy. It plays an integral part in achieving this aim by bringing groups and individuals from different areas and backgrounds together to create a society without division and segregation. 

“Last year, 4,200 young people attended the summer camps where many new and lasting friendships were made. The Northern Ireland Executive fully endorses the work you do to unite and build relations and I am delighted that we have been able to fund Youth Link this year in hosting its first camp. Those young people and leaders who attended past camps, and those of you who will attend them in the future, will continue to make valuable contributions to your communities and throughout Northern Ireland and I wish you well in the future.”

Notes to editors:

1. Youth Link is a regional voluntary organisation and is the inter-church youth service for Northern Ireland. It was established by the Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in 1991. 

2. Media enquiries about this press release to the Executive Office Press Office on 028 9037 8283, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Hamilton: Commitment of Dr B’s trainees inspirational

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has paid tribute to the commitment of young people with learning disabilities in overcoming barriers to employment.

Speaking at a prize giving ceremony for young people from Dr B’s Kitchen in Belfast,

Simon Hamilton said: “My Department is committed to assisting people overcome their personal barriers to social inclusion and employability.  Every young person, regardless of whether or not they have a disability, must have the opportunity to gain sustained and meaningful employment. 

“It is therefore inspiring to see how Dr B’s Kitchen has, over the last 25 years, shown that when barriers are removed for our young people with learning disabilities, they are more than capable of making an equal and vital contribution in all aspects of society.” 

Paying tribute to the work of Dr B’s Kitchen, the Minister continued: “This evening’s event is a fitting reward for the efforts of staff and trainees alike, and the achievements being rightfully recognised today show just what is possible when hard work, determination and application receive the right support.”
Dr B’s Kitchen project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for the Economy.

Notes to Editors: 

  1. Dr B’s Kitchen is one of 66 projects in Northern Ireland that was successful in its application for funding under the first Call of the NI European Social Fund (ESF) Programme 2014-20. 

  1. For media enquiries, please contact Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Givan congratulates Northern Ireland on fantastic result

Sports Minister Paul Givan has congratulated the Northern Ireland football team on their 2-0 win against Ukraine this evening in the European Championships in Lyon.

Speaking after the game, where the Minister was cheering on the team, he said:  “What a fantastic result for the team who had to play in some terrible weather conditions against a very strong Ukrainian team.  The win which resulted from Gareth McAuley’s towering header and Niall McGinn’s stoppage time goal, will now give the team a real boost as they now look towards the final group game against Germany on Tuesday. I wish Michael O’Neill and the rest of the team all the best.”

The Minister said that the support given to the team has been first class.  He said: “Whether at home or here in France, the world famous Green and White Army have been an unbelievable support to the team.  The fans in the ground acted as a 12th man for the team and really created a great atmosphere.  In particular , during the 24th minute when they marked the untimely death of Darren Rodgers with a rousing minute’s applause.”

Note to Editors

Media enquires to DfC Press Office on 028 9082 9454.  Out of hours, please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

McGuinness, Ross and McIlveen meet China Supreme Court President

The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, Junior Minister, Alastair Ross, and Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Michelle McIlveen today met HE Mr Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme People’s Court of China. 


President Zhou is leading a delegation of senior judges from the Chinese judiciary on a two day visit to Belfast.  Their focus is to analyse judicial practice here as part of an ongoing programme of reform of the judicial system in China.  During his visit President Zhou will also meet with the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan.


After his meeting with the visiting delegation in Stormont Castle the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuiness said: “I am delighted to welcome President Zhou today.  Following the visit in 2012 of Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong and last year of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, we are honoured another senior member of the Chinese government is visiting Belfast.  It demonstrates the Executive’s commitment to China and the establishment of our Executive Bureau in Beijing is having a meaningful impact at the top of the Chinese administration. 


”I am particularly pleased President Zhou is visiting us today as part of his drive to reform the Chinese judicial system.  One of its key principles is equality for all and this is an aspiration that we are all familiar with. I welcome the opportunity to be associated with this reform programme and today assured President Zhou of our commitment to it.”


Junior Minister, Alastair Ross said: “It was an honour for me today to welcome on behalf of the First Minister such an influential member of the Chinese government as President Zhou.  His visit is a clear signal of the Chinese government’s commitment to Northern Ireland.  It is also tangible evidence of our ability to learn from each other and share best practice.”


“As Chair of the Assembly Justice Committee I was committed to exploring ways of reforming and introducing innovation into the judicial system in Northern Ireland.  I am confident that President Zhou and his judicial delegation can learn much from our local legal system to inform the China Supreme Court’s reform programme.”      


Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen said: It was a privilege to greet President Zhou in Belfast today. Northern Ireland’s links with China have been growing closer over recent years and it is important that this continues.  


“Our businesses and industries, including the agri-food sector, look to China as an important trade partner and it is reassuring that this visit by President Zhou demonstrates a commitment from his country to maintaining these strong connections.”

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries to The Executive Office press office on 028 9037 8201. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Hazzard vows to change planning process for oil and gas exploration

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard will put forward legislation to ensure exploration for oil and gas will require full planning permission.

The Minister confirmed his intention to change permitted development rights for mineral exploration during an Assembly debate today relating to ongoing exploratory drilling at Woodburn Forest Park, Carrickfergus.

Minister Hazzard said: “The existing permitted development rights for mineral exploration includes all minerals both precious and base metal and oil and gas. Following a call for evidence on permitted development rights for mineral exploration the overwhelming response was in favour of change to the existing system that permits exploration without a planning application.

“Given this, I intend to propose to the Executive a change to the current legislation policy and procedures to remove permitted development rights for oil and gas exploration so that, in the future proposals to explore for oil and gas would require the submission of a planning application which would be subject to the full rigours of the planning process including environmental impact assessment and public consultation.” 

Consultation on the legislative change will begin shortly.

As Minister with responsibility for planning I aim to continue to improve our planning system and to make sure that it is effective and efficient and that it operates in the wider public interest.  I am committed to ensuring that it delivers for local communities and the region as a whole and that the planning system addresses the present as well as the long term future needs of our society."

The Minister concluded: “The planning system should, where possible facilitate development, but it must not compromise on environmental standards. Sustainable development is at the heart of our planning system and it is clear that there will many instances where it is necessary to balance competing social, economic and environmental interests.  Whilst the planning process many not always be able to reconcile competing interests, transparency, fairness and accountable decision-making are fundamental to ensuring all interests are taken into account.”

Notes to editor:
1. The current permitted development rights for mineral exploration are set out in Part 16 of the Schedule to The Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015.

2. Temporary Permitted Development rights for minerals exploration do not allow the commercial extraction of minerals, including oil and gas. Such activity would be subject to the full planning application process as well as relevant EIA, licensing and environmental permitting arrangements.

3. All media queries to Department for Infrastructure Press Office Tel 028 9054 0817. Out of office hours please contact the Daily Press Office via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Business sector has powerful role in tackling disadvantage - Givan

2 June 2016

Department for Communities

Business sector has powerful role in tackling disadvantage - Givan

The business sector has a vital and positive role in partnership with the NI Executive to encourage aspiration for all and tackle disadvantage.

That was the message from Communities Minister Paul Givan as he addressed the annual Business in the Community Awards at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast this evening.

The awards are organised by Business in the Community NI to recognise the efforts of firms across Northern Ireland to act on their social responsibility through practical action in local communities.

The Minister said: “These Awards celebrate the commitment of many businesses here to driving their economic growth in a sustainable and responsible way.  They are all working in many innovative and practical ways to address disadvantage in our society.  From investing time in volunteering with schools and communities, to helping improve employability and skills, they are each playing their part in helping create opportunities and build people’s confidence to fulfil their potential.  

“This ethos of social responsibility is one which I strongly support.  My department works closely with the voluntary and community sector, and over the past number of years we have supported a wide range of Business in the Community NI projects with funding of more than £500,000, including employee volunteering schemes and the establishment of a social economy incubation and innovation centre in Londonderry. 

“As Minister for Communities I am committed to working with all stakeholders to tackle disadvantage and deliver a positive future for all our people. The NI Executive’s draft Programme for Government emphasises the importance of partnership with business and other stakeholders to maximise delivery.   It is by working together that we can make Northern Ireland a better place to live, work and do business and build a future of opportunity for all.”

He concluded: “I congratulate all the winners and shortlisted nominees.  Tonight’s awards demonstrate what can be achieved through the business sector sharing its skills, time and resources for the benefit of all.”

Notes to editors:

1. Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland celebrate the powerful and positive role of business in society. The Awards are the most prestigious and respected corporate responsibility awards, set up to identify and celebrates businesses of all sizes who are tackling key social, workplace and environmental issues.  More info at

2. Media enquiries to Department for Communities Press Office, tel: 028 9082 9215 or email  Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.