“Sanctuary Runners is a shining light for Community Integration in Ireland” – Minister Joe O’Brien

  • Minister of State for Community Development and Integration runs with Sanctuary Runners in Borrisokane, Tipperary

  • Sanctuary Runners use running, jog, walking and open sea swimming to bring all in community together – including asylum seekers and refugees

  • Will have 50 groups set up across Ireland by end of 2023

Becoming the first government minister to run with the Sanctuary Runners Minister Joe O’Brien praised the positive impact the not-for-profit movement has had on community integration in Ireland over the last five years.

The Minister of State for Community Development, Integration and Charities said “Sanctuary Runners do amazing, and important, work across Ireland to help people integrate into local communities.”

He added: “This works to benefit both the individual and the wider community as connections are forged and local communities are strengthened and enhanced by diversity and the fostering of strong relationships. The strength of community spirit in Ireland is something we are rightly proud of and with the help of community groups such as Sanctuary Runners, that Community spirit continues to grow.”

Minister O’Brien joined the newly formed Borrisokane Sanctuary Runner group which included international protection applicants who were moved to the area in recent years with the first families arriving in 2019.

Running just under 5km in the Borrisokane Town Park the group had to dodge hens and ducks as they made their way through the picturesque public park.

Now with over 30 Sanctuary Runner groups across Ireland the organisation is planning to have 50 by the end of the year and build another 25 groups in 2024.

Sanctuary Runners were named as the best initiative to promote inclusion in sport and physical activity in Ireland at last year’s Irish Sports Industry Awards – their work has also been celebrated at the United Nations and the European Commission.

“We keep things very simple and we focus on doing this ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ people who have moved to Ireland,” explained founder and CEO Graham Clifford.

“We use sport to break down barriers, to bring people together and to encourage solidarity, friendship and respect within our communities – something needed more now than ever. We run as one, a team of equals, and we were so delighted today that Joe was able to join us here in Borrisokane. To see, and experience, for himself that electricity which can be created when people come together in positivity regardless of nationality, legal status, culture, religion, skin colour, gender or sexual orientation. To smile, to laugh, to be themselves.”

And Clifford spoke of the need for more such initiatives.

He said: “It’s vital that initiatives which promote community integration are supported. These are not ‘nice to haves’ – these are simply intrinsic for social cohesion and community integration.”

In recent weeks Sanctuary Runner groups have been created in towns such as Youghal, Gort, Celbridge, Termonfeckin, Fermoy, Ballaghdereen, Kinsale and Borrisokane.

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