Funded through The Executive Programme on Paramilitarism and Organised Crime (TPP) fund, the programme is aimed at young people aged between 11-18 years, an age group analytically identified as vulnerable to coercion and exploitation by paramilitary groups, and involves hybrid sessions of boxing, fitness training and education each week.
The programme runs each Saturday night at Evolution Boxing gym and provides young people with an opportunity to find a positive interest, away from the coercive influence of paramilitary groups and risk of becoming involved in anti-social behaviour.
There has been significant input from Neighbourhood officers concerning the education aspect along with additional support from external partners and speakers who have been brought in to discuss the issues around paramilitary exploitation, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour
The programme is significant as it comes at a time when tensions within the local community are high given the uncertainty over the Northern Ireland Protocol issue and previous police response to high profile incidents. This combination is giving paramilitaries and organised crime gangs the opportunity to exert negative influences upon the local working-class communities, none more so than within Carrickfergus.
Given the previous history of mistrust with young people from the local community in the area and the risk of them coming into conflict with police in the months ahead due to the coercive influence of paramilitary groups, the project is commendable and provides both diversion from such activity and a forum to build trust and community engagement. We strongly believe this programme is increasing community confidence in local policing and legitimacy, resilience to paramilitarism and coercive control, and increasing opportunities for the disaffected young people and empowering positive change in aspirations for themselves and their communities.