This article addresses the role of sport in Northern Ireland, a country that, despiteexperiencing 20 years of relative peace, remains deeply divided along ethno-sectarianlines. It locates this analysis amid publication by the Office of the First and Deputy FirstMinister in Northern Ireland’s devolved Assembly of its draft proposals to tacklecommunity divisions in the country. The Programme for Cohesion, Sharing andIntegration consultation (2010) document was the local government’s attempt tocommence dialogue around how decades of division in Northern Ireland could be meaningfully addressed. However, one of its principle failings has been its reluctance to build upon well-established programmes, many of them using sport as a tool to promote social and community cohesion, which have existed in the country for some time. Moreover, these community-based initiatives are typically at their most potent within the so-called hard-to-reach communities where relationships between the minority Catholic and the majority Protestant populations present particularly challenging concerns. Of course, sport cannot offer all the answers and an oversellingof its potential in Northern Ireland, specifically when addressing deeply ingrained levels of mistrust in the country, is contained in a detailed critique in this paper.
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