Maghaberry Prison has teamed up with Ulster GAA to coach skills for Gaelic football to prisoners as part of a sports rehabilitation initiative.
Twenty prisoners have taken part in the GAA Foundation Award course at the end of which they formed a prisoners team to compete in a football tournament against Prison Service teams of staff and prisoners.
Over a three week period, coaches from Ulster GAA instructed prisoners in skills and rules for football which will allow them to assist a coach in organising a programme of games and skills development activities. GAA Foundation Award certificates were presented to each of the prisoners who completed the course.
Director General of the Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, said: “There is a great appetite for Gaelic games at Maghaberry and I am grateful to the GAA for giving up their time to work with the people in our care. Prisons are part of the community, not apart from it and we want to build partnerships across all areas and all walks of life.
This is also a great opportunity for our staff to get involved with the GAA coaches which will ensure that Gaelic football is rolled out across the Prison Service.”
Ronnie Armour added: “Sport plays a big part in rehabilitating people in our care in the way we challenge and support them to change. By encouraging people to live a healthier life-style through sport we are helping them to progress and gain new skills. This reduces the risk of re-offending when they return to their communities and helps to build a safer place to live.”
Michael Hasson, President Ulster GAA, said: “Almost all people who are sent to prison by the courts will one day be released back into the community and rehabilitation is a key element of the prison agenda. It is therefore in the interests of all that prisoners are given the opportunity to develop their skills and to prepare for their re-integration back into society.
“Through sport prisoners can learn a range of disciplines and Ulster GAA are delighted to be working in partnership with the Prison Service on this initiative. Inclusiveness is a core value of the GAA and I trust that both the prisoners involved in the programme and the Maghaberry staff will have many positives to take from the experience.”