Northern Ireland footballers Josh Magennis and Niall McGinn took time out of their preparations for this week’s Uefa Euro 2020 qualifiers to visit the Irish FA Foundation’s ‘Stay Onside’ programme at Maghaberry Prison.
The programme, which is delivered in partnership with the PSNI, Probation Service, Youth Justice Agency, Prison Service and NIACRO, uses football to divert and deter young people away from offending.
The programme is delivered in custodial settings such as Maghaberry, Hydebank, Magilligan and Knockbracken, as well as in community settings.
Participants take part in a six-week programme, which runs close to their release from prison, and complete workshops in football-related subjects such as coaching, the laws of the game and mental health.
The aim is to give offenders the chance to turn their lives around through innovative intervention and to use football to help reduce reoffending and reduce the number of victims of crime.
Niall McGinn said: “Football has the power to change lives for the better and this is a great example of how our sport can be used for the good of everyone in society.”
Josh Magennis added: “I am proud that the Irish Football Association is helping to pioneer this innovative programme and I was humbled to see the meaningful impact it has in the lives of the participants.”
Maghaberry governor David Kennedy said the ‘Stay Onside’ programme has been well received by prisoners.
“The visit of the two internationals has been very successful and I’ve no doubt will serve to inspire and encourage those in our care,” he said.