Ballymun Gardaí and PSNI team up with Traveller Community for Cross-border Challenge Match
On the 13/11/12
It was a cold, wet and windy November morning in the quiet oasis that is the seventy acre Dungannon Park, Co. Tyrone, as the colours of autumn provided the backdrop for a unique community policing event. The football pitches overlooking the idyllic still-water lake were to be the staging post for a Ballymun versus Dungannon/South Tyrone challenge match. This was not to be a typical Garda v PSNI event however, as the teams would be made up of members of An Garda Síochána and the Traveller Community from Ballymun, versus members of the PSNI and Traveller Community from Coalisland, Co. Tyrone.
The idea for this event came about through interactions between Superintendent Paul Moran, Ballymun and PSNI Inspector Keith Jamieson, Dungannon/South Tyrone, arising from their support of the Communities and Policing in Transition Programme, or CAPT. CAPT is an EU funded project designed to provide key training opportunities and seminars on best practice with regard to the interface between policing and communities across the island of Ireland. Through this programme, Inspector Jamieson sought to learn from the Garda experience in particular in building relationships with the Traveller Community. On the invitation of Superintendent Moran, Inspector Jamieson last year travelled to Dublin to attend a football match between local Gardaí and members of the Traveller Community, organised by Ballymun Neighbourhood Policing Unit (NPU). Inspector Jamieson sought to learn from the Ballymun experience and to share ideas to assist in the policing of his local community in South Tyrone.
Ballymun NPU, over some years now, has invested significant time and effort towards building and fostering good relationships with the local Traveller Community. Such effort has been in the form of various organised events and activities, in addition to continuous personal interaction and relationship building by the dedicated Community Policing team, led by Sergeants Bernard Young and Yvonne Murphy. It is the lessons learned and experience garnered in Ballymun that Inspector Jamieson sought to replicate in the interactions of his officers in Dungannon/South Tyrone. Taking on the Ballymun concept, it was left to PSNI Constable Stephen Rutledge, working in conjunction with Sergeant Yvonne Murphy, Ballymun, to plan an event whereby the PSNI and An Garda Síochána could interact jointly with their respective Traveller Communities. The football match in Dungannon Park on November 13th last, was seen as an important first step towards assisting the PSNI to develop a good relationship with their Traveller Community, while also assisting Ballymun Community Gardaí to further develop and enhance their already good relationship with the Ballymun Travellers.
The significance and importance of this inaugural event was evident by the attendance, on both sides, of senior ranking figures. An Garda Síochána was represented by Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny, Superintendent Paul Moran and Inspectors Ray McMahon and Tom O’Sullivan; while the PSNI was represented by Chief Superintendent’s Alan Todd and Pauline Shields, Superintendent Alwyn Barton, Chief Inspector Jane Humphries, and Inspector Keith Jamieson.
Further recognition and support of this event came in the form of a reception and lunch for the players hosted by the Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, Councillor Phelim Gildernew (SF), also attended by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Frances Burton (DUP). The reception was hosted in the Dungannon Council Chambers. Speaking at the event Mayor Gildernew thanked all of those involved in bringing the event to fruition and heralded the importance of such cross-border events towards the development of strong relationships between the police services both north and south; and members of the Travelling Community. The Mayor’s comments were echoed in contributions by Commissioner Kieran Kenny and Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields.
This event marks the first in what is envisaged and hoped will become an annual event between Ballymun Gardaí and colleagues from the PSNI in Dungannon/South Tyrone, as well as their respective Traveller Communities. The members of the Ballymun Traveller Community, led by John Paul Collins and Jimmy Maughan of Exchange House, were extremely positive about their participation in the event and expressed their commitment and eagerness to participate in future events of this type. The return fixture is already being planned to take place in May 2013.
To see photographs taken at the event, please click here.
The inclement weather was not to deter the teams as they prepared to face each other for this inaugural event. As the referee addressed the teams in advance of the 11am kick-off, it was clear, despite it being a friendly fixture, that this would be a hotly contested competition. North versus South, pride was at stake, and each team held a steely determination that they would emerge victorious. The match got off to an exciting start with robust exchanges between both sides and some impressive displays of skill and athleticism. It was Ballymun however that appeared to have the edge from the outset and this was soon apparent with an opening goal by Thomas Stokes. Ballymun continued their initial dominance of the first half with two further goals scored in relatively quick succession by Garda Mark Higgins; the Dungannon team now looked under serious pressure. Ballymun’s initial dominance appeared to slip however towards the closing minutes of the first half and a number of defensive errors were to the advantage of the Dungannon team, who capitalised with two late first half goals by PSNI Constable, Eamon Donnelly. These late interventions by Donnelly were to keep the game alive for Dungannon and make for an interesting second half. First half score, three-two to Ballymun.
The half-time team talk by Ballymun coaches, Sergeant Bernard Young and John Paul Collins, seem to have re-gained the initial first half focus and it was Thomas Stokes who again opened scoring in this half to bring Ballymun to a now comfortable four-two lead. Dungannon still showed fire and some impressive defensive and goalkeeping play by the northern men saw to it that Ballymun did not increase their lead still further, early in the half. It was again Constable Eamon Donnelly who made it a hat-trick to bring Dungannon back to within one goal of Ballymun and keep the game alive. A late goal by Sergeant Aidan Delaney for Ballymun however, put paid to the Dungannon fortunes with the Ballymun lead extended to five-three late in the second half, from which there was no recovery for Dungannon. Full time score, five-three to Ballymun.
By Sergeant Yvonne Murphy, Ballymun NPU.
Photo on front page: The players photographed with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council following a reception at the Council Building
Photo on this page: Both teams photographed before the game.