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10th February 2004 – Enthusiastic young people at St Bernard’s Primary School, Newtownabbey, were today the proud hosts for the Northern Ireland launch of the European Year of Education through Sport (EYES).  Designated by the European Commission, 2004 will provide great opportunities for the EU, individual nation states, regions and individuals to promote learning through sport.


Enjoying sport demonstrations at the Belfast school, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Dr Aideen McGinley explained the background to “EYES”.  “The European Soccer Championships in Portugal and the Athens Olympic and Paralympic Games will make Europe the focus of the sporting world in 2004.  These provide a perfect background to disseminate and explain sporting values to millions of young people.”


Explaining many of the objectives, Dr McGinley continued, “In addition to improving health, it is believed that a young person’s educational, cultural and social needs can benefit from participation in sport. I am therefore delighted to announce that the European Parliament and Commission have committed significant funding to the development of specific projects with over €600,000 being made available for UK-based activities.”


In addition to funded projects, the EYES website www.eyes2004.org will encourage young people to take part in and learn through physical activity. Chairman of the Sports Council for Northern Ireland, Professor Eric Saunders OBE continued, “Projects will involve young people, professionals, schools, other institutions and sporting organisations. It is hoped that this initiative will provide platforms upon which educational and sports organisations will co-operate and share the values conveyed by sport to increase knowledge and skills. Through sport, young people can develop social capabilities such as teamwork, solidarity, tolerance and fair play in a multi-cultural context.”

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Principal of St Bernard’s Primary School, Mr Joe McNamee also praised the EYES website as a tool for any school or organisation in Europe to learn, compare and discuss their sporting practices.  “It is vital for schools to share good practice and we will be able to challenge schools across the UK in “virtual” sports days. Young people enjoy all kinds of sport and it is a terrific vehicle to help them embrace learning, whilst having fun.”


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