Young people who have graduated from the National Citizen Service programme met with Minister for the Cabinet Office and de-facto Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington on Friday (May 17) as he visited the offices of peace building charity Co-operation Ireland.

Jordan McKee (19) and Amy Patton (17) from Sion Mills joined Ceri Nesbitt (18) from Omagh and Jonathan Hogg (19) from Ballymagorry to tell the Minister about the cross community work they carried out as participants on the National Citizen Service programme, for which Co-operation Ireland is lead partner in Northern Ireland.

NCS is a personal development programme that builds skills for life and work. Social action projects are at the core of the programme with participants volunteering in the community. It is funded by the Department for Communities.

Minister Lidington heard about projects the young people had undertaken to foster community relations in the Omagh area and how they were successful in breaking down barriers between the two communities.

Jordan spoke of how taking part in the programme had helped him.

“I got involved in NCS because I knew a friend that did it the year before me and they said it was one of the best experiences they ever had.

“NCS made me feel more confident when working with groups and making friends with people I didn’t know before hand.

“I’ve kept involved with NCS since 2017 and it’s been extremely beneficial to me as I feel like I’m able to make a difference in Northern Ireland and hopefully the whole of the UK someday.”

Minister Lidington later described the young people as “inspiring” and said there was an “enthusiastic message from the young people I met that NCS had transformed their own self-confidence and broken down barriers between different communities.”

Welcoming Minister Lidington’s visit, Co-operation Ireland’s Chairman Dr Christopher Moran said he was pleased the senior member of the cabinet was able to see the good work being carried out on the ground.

“Bringing people together is at the core of Co-operation Ireland’s ethos.  NCS is one of Co-operation Ireland's many programs in which young people from across the Island of Ireland not only develop vital skills for their futures but come together to help their communities.  

“I am delighted that Minister Lidington was able to visit the important work of Co-operation Ireland as it builds peace within youth communities in Northern Ireland.”