Ulster Unionist sports spokesperson Michael McGimpsey MLA has supported an Assembly motion which calls on the DCAL Minister to work with local councils to make it easier for people with disabilities and special needs to participate in sporting activities.
Mr McGimpsey said;
I fully support action to increase the number of people with disabilities and special needs participating in sport. The principle is equality, and, irrespective of your colour, class, creed, gender or disability, you have the right to equal participation. Therefore, we need to identify the barriers to that.
“A NISRA survey in 2007 found that 85% of people in Northern Ireland with disabilities never take part in any form of sport or physical recreation. That is a huge indictment of our society. Also, Disability Sports NI suggests that 30% of the entire population has a long-term limiting illness, so we have a great need and there is clear demand. Participation can benefit people through improvement of not only their physical health but also their mental, emotional and psychological well-being. There are very real health benefits to society and the individual through participation in sport. It is about social inclusion and combating isolation and loneliness, which is one of the great scourges of our society and one of the reasons why, for example, 2s5% of our population suffers from a mental illness. One of the key elements in that is social exclusion and isolation, and sport can address that, as can arts and cultural pursuits.
“There are a number of reasons why we look to participation. It benefits the individual, and people can benefit from participation in clubs, societies and teams through teamwork, encouragement of positive attitudes and support. As the motion says, we must look at the need and then work out how we address it. There is a clear need here, but we also have to focus further down from the NISRA survey of 2007 and Disability Sport, which does tremendous work. We must look at the need, assess it and work out how to address it.”