Northern Ireland

Belfast schools angling for peace in Dromore

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Media captionThe project aims to discourage children from becoming involved with antisocial behaviour

A cross-community shared education scheme is taking children out of the city to practise their angling skills.

Students from Seaview Primary and St Patrick's primary in North Belfast were invited to join the Fishing for Schools project in Dromore.

The initiative was launched by Angling First and got 2,000 students out of the classroom last year.

Offering a positive form of recreation, it discourages children from becoming involved with antisocial behaviour.

Image caption Mark McGivern set up Angling First 12 years ago

The Charity's director, Mark McGivern, credits fishing for keeping him out of trouble growing up: "We're all about getting kids off the streets," he said.

"The overall aim is for them to progress in the sport and take it up on a regular basis as a positive form of recreation and not getting involved in antisocial activities."

Image caption Victoria Steele from Seaview Primary said it was her first time fishing - but would not be her last

Mr McGivern said: "It gets kids off game consoles and into the real world, as opposed to the virtual one.

"For a lot of young people today, they're touching a live fish for the first time in their lives."

Image caption P7 student Katrina Sewell said she was excited to catch her first fish

The Fishing for Schools scheme is now in its second year and is run in association with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, which gives all participating children a free fishing licence for the year.

Image caption Students Oudhin and Danny (left) from St Patrick's Primary and Carson from Seaview Primary

Mr McGivern added: "Northern Ireland is blessed with a whole system of waterways and rivers etc where kids can go and fish.

"You don't have to be from an affluent or academic background, anybody can do it."

Shared Education

Teacher Mark Irvine from Seaview Primary said the project was one of many cross-community initiatives with which the school has been involved, having previously taken part in football and poetry workshops.

Image caption Mr Irvine from Seaview Primary School said the scheme was having a positive impact on P7 students

"Fishing is something children from inner Belfast probably wouldn't be familiar with," he said.

"In year 7 we are thinking a lot about mindfulness and ways to get rid of the stress and strains of every day life and what better activity than fishing for that."

Image caption Matthew Abraham and Levi Lyness, both 23, volunteer with the programme

One of the staff, 23-year-old Levi Lyness, first got involved with the initiative when he was 11.

"I started fishing when I was 10, but I hadn't caught a fish for a whole year," he said.

"I came to this pond with Mark and caught my very first fish and then that was it. I got more and more involved every weekend.

"When I was 17 Mark pulled me to the side and asked if I'd mind volunteering and helping the other kids.

"It's a great opportunity, I love every minute of it."