ZEDLER BarbaraSnow Patrol’s Johnny Quinn indebted to Springboard: UN International Day of Peace 2013
by Barbara ZEDLER for Northern Ireland Foundation
20 September 2013

In its 21st anniversary, Springboard Opportunities welcomed 250 people celebrating the UN International Day of Peace at Belfast City Hall. For the fourth time, the organisation presented awards to acknowledge people who have had an inspirational influence on others. Or as Springboard Executive Director Angila Chada put it, “make our community a better place” and show that ”the impossible is possible”.

The Community Inspiration Award recognises young people between 18-25. This award was presented to Stefan Sloan (nominated by Opportunity Youth). The citation was made by the Commissioner for Children & Young People, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney. Stefan had faced multiple charges for drug abuse and violence during his teenage years, and was expected to spend most of his adult life in custody. However, at the age of 17, he decided to change his life by getting help and now helps young offenders at the Juvenile Justice Centre. Runners up for the Community Award were three more young, positive role models: Conor Donnan (nominated by Philip Mngold), Loryn Bowers (nominated by Arlene Llewellyn), and Geerthanshan Manoharan (nominated by Stephanie Mitchell).

The Youth Inspiration Award recognises a Springboard former/current participant who has overcome difficulties and inspires others. This award was given to Michael Blaney. The citation was made by youth practitioner, Gary Symington, from Lighthouse. Gary explained how Michael had managed to get out of a life that was filled with crime, community violence and drugs. He lived under threat, had to leave his community, and suffered from severe depression. However, today he has overcome his past, is father to 3 young children, gained self-esteem and is a great role model for young people and others.

The recipient of this year’s Celebrity Inspiration Award was presented to Johnny Quinn, drummer of Snow Patrol and former Springboard participant. The citation was made by ‘Good Vibrations’ punk legend Terri Hooley, who named Johnny “his only friend who can rest assured that he’ll get a place in heaven”. Johnny Quinn described the huge impact Springboard can have on young people, and said that he would not be in Snow Patrol if it wasn’t for Springboard.

The Special Inspiration Award honoured young Oscar Knox, who with his strong fighting to overcome his neuroblastoma cancer, has not only inspired people in Northern Ireland but all around the world, as boxer Paddy Barnes, two-time Olympic medal winner and family friend said in his citation. Oscar, whom Paddy declared his hero, could unfortunately not be at the event.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, reminded the audience that there was still “an awful lot of work” to do on the road to stable peace. However, he continued, Northern Ireland was an example to the rest of the world that there was an alternative to war and he asked the audience to commit to peace.

Jackie Redpath, Chair of Springboard Opportunities, underlined that peace was not easy but that Northern Ireland should be a beacon in the world. He concluded the celebration with a quote by Seamus Heaney (2000): “One of the paradoxical blessings of the past two-and-a-half decades of Northern Ireland’s history has been an emergent vision of peace as a creative condition in which cultural, political and doctrinal differences can be actively confessed and intelligently contested.”

The peace walk preceding the function and the subsequent festivities organised by Cool FM in front of Belfast City hall, and not to forget Belfast’s wonderful culture night later on, demonstrated people’s desire here to be an international city of peace.

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