PeacePlayers Northern Ireland was established in 2002 to provide a rare opportunity for Catholic and Protestant youth to form friendships and advocate for reconciliation and shared society.

What we do

The conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, known as the ‘Troubles,' still overshadows relations between both traditions, despite the existence of a decades-old peace agreement.
Protestants and Catholics are divided in practically every facet of life, including the communities in which they live, the schools they attend (93% of Northern Ireland's youth attend segregated schools) and even the sports they play.
PeacePlayers Northern Ireland helps 2,000 youth each year
challenge religious divisions, prejudice and sectarianism through sport. The vision of PeacePlayers Northern Ireland is inspired and confident children and young people building positive relationships and promoting sustainable peace in Northern Ireland.
The mission of PeacePlayers Northern Ireland
is to use sport, in particular the game of basketball, to create opportunities for young leaders to promote respect and mutual understanding between the historically divided community of Northern Ireland.

Our Programming

PeacePlayers Northern Ireland engages over 1200 Catholic and Protestant youth each year, ages 9-25, in year-round and multi-year basketball training, conflict resolution education and leadership development activities in Northern Ireland. Programs are divided into five tiers:

Primary School Twinnings Northern Ireland

Primary School twinnings

The foundation of our cross-community intervention, this program engages children ages 9 to 11, pairing a maintained (predominantly Catholic) primary school with a controlled (predominantly Protestant) primary school for 90-minute sessions during the school day.

The Twinning program is offered to Primary Six classes in the autumn and Primary Seven classes in the spring. A typical twinning program lasts six weeks and introduces the fundamentals of basketball in conjunction with PP-NI’s peace-building curriculum, which incorporates the Northern Ireland Personal Development and Mutual Understanding (PDMU) academic curriculum.

Cross Community Leagues

Cross Community Leagues

An evening/after school program that builds upon the lessons of the primary school curriculum and engages young people in ‘hubs’, providing cross-community basketball training, matches and community relations discussions. PP-NI currently facilitates CCL’s through hubs in north, south, east and west Belfast as well as in Larne.

LDP PeacePlayers Northern Ireland

Leadership Development Program

PeacePlayers Northern Ireland is in the process of developing a new Leadership Development Program (LDP). The renewed LDP will replace PeacePlayers Northern Ireland's existing Champions for Peace, youth-focused Coaches Development Program and Basketball Development Program.

The new LDP will incorporate core elements of each of these existing program in the new structure. The LDP will work with at least 25 young people aged 14-18 years The LDP will have 5 program objectives: 1. Unite young people on a regional level 2. Develop core competencies in leadership skills 3. Develop understanding of using basketball as a tool. 4. Provide experiential learning opportunities 5. Facilitate training in PeacePlayers Core Values.

Coaches Professional

Coaches Development Program

PeacePlayers Northern Ireland has recruited and trained a bank of sessional coaches in Belfast and Larne. Sessional coaches form an integral part of the program's delivery capacity. As products of the program they are engaged through the program's Positive Coaching framework and trained to deliver community relations through sport curricula and program.

Belfast Interface Games

Interface Games

The Interface Games follows the Game of Three Halves model, bringing children and young people from different backgrounds together to explore culture and identity by participating in three sports from Northern Ireland's rich sporting heritage: football, Gaelic football and Rugby.

Four camps are organized across the city, in north, south, east and west Belfast. At each camp, up to 50 young people, from either side of some of Belfast’s most notorious interfaces, come together to play Gaelic football, rugby and soccer. Coaching stations, led by coaches from each of the three sports, are complemented by a ‘fourth half’ of interactive community relations conversations led by PeacePlayers Northern Ireland facilitators.

Proven Impact

0 %

of participants got along well or very well with the participants from a different religious background, and 70% of them attribute that response to their experience with PeacePlayers!

0 %

of respondents answered 5 out of 10 for how confident they felt in their basketball skills, and 95% of them attribute that response to their experience with PeacePlayers! 

0 %

of respondents enjoyed the virtual CCL sessions that PeacePlayers ran, with “seeing my teammates” and “the competitions against or with my teammates” ranking as the top reasons for this

0 %

of respondents were not taking part in any other virtual sessions outside of those with PeacePlayers

Our Stories


Our Team

Gareth Harper, PeacePlayers Northern Ireland

Gareth Harper

Managing director

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: gharper@peaceplayers.org

Gareth took up the position of Managing Director with PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PeacePlayers) in March 2009, having previously worked as Programmes Manager with a regional rural community development organization. He has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Geography, and an MSc in Town and Country Planning, both from the Queens University Belfast. Gareth also has a Post Graduate Certificate in Management and a Master in Business Administration (MBA), both from the Open University. Gareth is a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic programming and holds additional qualifications in Executive Coaching and Sustainable Investment for the 3rd Sector. Gareth has expertise in strategic planning; people, project and financial management; and a focus on outcomes based accountability. Gareth has over 15 years’ experience at Senior Management level and over 25 years of experience of managing teams and change for sustainability in the community / voluntary and Not-for-Profit sector. Gareth is married, has two teenage daughters and hails from Co. Down

Laura Johnston

Laura Johnston

Finance and Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: ljohnston@peaceplayers.org

At the age of 10 Laura became involved with a victim’s group in her local area of Co. Down.  She helps local people affected by “The Troubles”, and has been elected onto the committee each year since the age of 17. The group has been a big influence in her life and it is only fitting that this passion for peace has transferred into the start of her career.


Laura became involved with PeacePlayers when undertaking her university placement year, and took on a full time position after graduating from Ulster University with a BSc (Hons) in Business Studies with Marketing. PeacePlayers also led to Laura being recruited to play rugby for Ballynahinch RFC.

Debbie Byrne, PeacePlayers Northern Ireland

Debbie Byrne

Operations Team Leader

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: dbyrne@peaceplayers.org

Debbie Byrne took up the position of Operations Team Leader in Peace Players International – Northern Ireland in November 2013. Debbie previously worked for Youth Initiatives, a cross-community youth work organization for 17 years.  Debbie also worked for the Bytes Project for a year as a Cross Community Worker.  Debbie has a BA Honours in Political Science and later worked and studied at the same time to obtain a Diploma in Informal and Community Education.  Debbie starting playing basketball at age 12 and went on to play for her school, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland and Sporting Belfast who who played in all Ireland National League.  Debbie is connected with Phoenix Basketball in Lisburn where her children play and compete.  Debbie is married with 3 children and loves the work of Peace Players International – Northern Ireland because it is a marriage of two of her passions: basketball and community relations work.

Joanne Fitzpatrick, PeacePlayers Northern Ireland

Joanne Fitzpatrick

Core Programming and Curriculum Specialist

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: jfitzpatrick@peaceplayers.org

Joanne was born and raised in Co. Down and attended St. Louis’ Grammar School in Kilkeel, where she discovered her love of basketball. Joanne played for the Southern Education and Library Board basketball team during the Golden Cow Youth Games in 2001 and later went on to play for the Ulster Basketball Association (UBA) for 4 years. Alongside her love of basketball, Joanne has always had a passion for working with children and young people. In 2001, Joanne joined the Down Youth Council and was a member for two years. In 2007, Joanne helped to start up the Down Vikings Basketball Club, where she met Dave Cullen (former PPI board member) and Will Maloney (former PPI fellow).


Joanne officially joined the PeacePlayers team in 2008. Her passion for basketball and working with young people has allowed Joanne to grow within the organization. Joanne now coaches the PeacePlayers U12 girls team and coordinates programming in North Belfast and the Junior Champions4Peace programme. She is currently completing her degree in Youth Work and volunteers in Whiterock Youth Club in her spare time.

Paula McCurdy

Paula McCurdy

Human Resources and Office Administrator

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: pmccurdy@peaceplayers.org

Aoife Redmond

Aoife Redmond


Location: Northern Ireland
Email: aredmond@peaceplayers.org

Aoife started working with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland in 2017 on placement as part of her degree where she was challenged to explore Youth Work in a new context. She has been working as a Youth Worker across Northern Ireland for the past 8 years and now has a BA Honours in Youth and Community Work. 

As the first ever junior member of her school’s Sports Committee, Aoife has always been involved in and advocated for team sports. From Dublin, she uses her unique position as an outsider to the conflict in Northern Ireland as a tool to open up conversations and learn alongside participants. As a coach Aoife has been able to journey alongside various groups of participants as they engage in sport, informal education, team building and leadership opportunities.

Pearse Smith

Pearse Smith


Location: Northern Ireland
Email: psmith@peaceplayers.org

Growing up in Belfast, Good Relations was a huge part of my upbringing. I was constantly actively involved in the local community and developed a passion of trying to better the community. I became a young leader in a local T:BUC Programme in my area called Uniting Communities through Creativity and Sport. Beyond being a young leader, I was quite involved in the local politics, especially in trying to get the youth voice heard. I volunteered for the Children’s Law Centre, NICCY and even founded a young person’s political lobby group called OFOCNI. Caring for young people’s voices in the local community was a strong motivator in what I did.

I continued to develop through the Uniting Communities Young Leader Programme for a few years and graduated to become a Uniting Communities Young Ambassador.  This is how I got to know PeacePlayers. PeacePlayers were responsible for developing and running this programme, and after being through their training programme showing how to promote good relations through Basketball, I knew I wanted to be involved. After this training, I was hired as Sessional Coach for PeacePlayers and 1 year later, I’m now in this position. The opportunities and chances to grow that PeacePlayers have gave me has been unmatched. Presently, I am studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Queen’s University Belfast. I’m still not great at Basketball but have definitely got better!

Nicole Breslin

Nicole Breslin

Sessional project coach

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: nbreslin@peaceplayers.org

Nicole is originally from Derry/Londonderry City but moved to Belfast in 2012 to study an MSci in Physics at Queen’s University Belfast and is currently in the third year of her Physics PhD that specialises in Laser-ion Acceleration. Nicole Breslin joined PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) as a Sessional Coach in February 2014. Over the past 5 years Nicole has worked her way from being a Sessional Coach for PPI-NI and is now a Sessional Project Coach. She delivers PP-NI’s community relations and peace building through sport programming, across Belfast and other parts of Ulster, working with 1000’s of Catholic and Protestant young people from some of Northern Ireland’s most challenging areas each year. Nicole also plans and delivers all PeacePlayers core programming in East Belfast and has a support role in Coaches Development. 

Hannah Byrne

Hannah Byrne

Sessional project coach

Location: Northern Ireland
Email: hbyrne@peaceplayers.org

Hannah began her PeacePlayers Journey in November 2013 as a participant. Over the past six years she has moved through the PeacePlayers program as a sessional coach, a fast-track coach and currently a Sessional Project Coach (SPC). Hannah has a BA Honours in Politics and Philosophy from Queens University Belfast and an LLM in Gender, Conflict and Human Rights from Ulster University Jordanstown. Her academic pathway has been greatly influenced by her work at PeacePlayers. Hannah has also played basketball from a very young age. She has coached and played for her local club Belfast Phoenix and also previously played for Northern Ireland and Ulster Rockets competing in the National League. Hannah really enjoys working with young people and putting the skills she has attained both through sport and university to use through her role at PeacePlayers Northern Ireland.

Our Board of Directors


Trevor Ringland

Chairman & Bank Signatory

A Partner in the firm of Macaulay & Ritchie, Solicitors, in Belfast, having studied law at Queen’s University Belfast, he played rugby for Queen’s University Belfast, Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and the British Lions. Trevor is a former Vice Chairman of East Belfast Ulster Unionist Party; and Co-Chairman of the One Small Step Campaign, promoting a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland; and a Director of The Ireland Funds and The Mediation Network. He is also a Trustee of the RUC George Cross Foundation and a Non-Executive Director of Independent News & Media (NI) Ltd. Trevor has also served as a member of the Policing Board for Northern Ireland. He is Vice Chairman of Rally Ireland and is on the Northern Ireland Board of the British Council (Northern Ireland).

Jim FitzPatrick


Jim is an experienced broadcast journalist, presenter and producer. He has a track record in award-winning documentaries for television. He has also presented radio news, television news programmes and many outside broadcasts over more than a decade in the frontline of broadcasting in Northern Ireland. He has detailed experience in crafting news bulletins and daily news for radio, television, online and print. He has worked on programmes including politics, business and economics. He has managed independent productions and digital media projects. He is currently working on a number of internationally focused documentaries and new media projects in collaboration with others. Jim has specific expertise in politics, economics and investigative work. He is a frequent host of public events including conferences, seminars and customer engagement sessions. Jim is married with four young children and lives in Belfast.

Peter McKittrick


Peter is Public Affairs Specialist ~ Northern Ireland, U.S. Consulate Belfast. Peter oversees the Public Diplomacy function for the U.S. Department of State in Northern Ireland. He has oversight for a range of responsibilities that augment international connections or develop awareness of U.S. foreign policies. His role has involved the management of high-level events at home and abroad, including Presidential/State visits, G8/G20 summits, and rapid-response work overseas in the physical evacuation of American citizens. He provides strategic direction to a number of management boards run by the British Council, the International Fund for Ireland and Belfast City Council. In addition, he sits on a number of selection panels for international initiatives such as the Washington Ireland Program, the U.K. Fulbright Commission, and the Irish Institute at Boston College. A graduate in Tourism from the University of Northumbria, Peter has previously occupied roles in Moyle District Council, and Armagh City Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. He holds an MSc with Distinction in Political Communication and Public Affairs. Born and bred in County Armagh, he is married with two young children. 

Emma Clegg (Gibson)

Emma is an experienced fundraising manager working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for 11 years, specialising in event fundraising, community and small corporate fundraising in Northern Ireland. More recently she has managed a remote team of staff across the island of Ireland and Scotland to support volunteers and engage with the community. 

Prior to joining the RNLI Emma worked for the Northern Ireland Civil Service as a graduate entrant as a Project Team Leader in the Social Security Agency focusing on managing a direct marketing campaign and project management. Emma holds a BSC (Hons) degree in Geography from Queens University Belfast and spent a year studying business at Albright College in Reading Pennsylvania through the Business Education Initiative. She holds the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma in Marketing and is currently studying for the Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Investment for the Third Sector at the Ulster University. She is a certified member of the Institute of Fundraising and a member of Fundraising Ireland. 

Susan Johnson

Susan is a business consultant with Deloitte, specialising in strategy and operations within the life sciences sector and has also worked with public and third sector clients. Susan is a former board member of Basketball Northern Ireland and has volunteered and played with Phoenix Basketball Club for the last 15 years.

Lisa Maltman

Lisa has extensive experience working with companies in every sector across Northern Ireland establishing and developing relationships at a senior level.  Lisa, who gained a degree in Business Management from Queen’s University, Belfast, also holds a Masters in International Business and received a Level 5 Award in Leadership and Management from the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Belfast. More recently, Lisa has completed the IoD Certificate in Company Direction (Level 9).  Lisa works as Business Development Manager in The Institute of Directors in NI. Lisa’s former positions include Business Development Executive at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Northern Ireland and as a consultant to firms in the food and drink sector in Northern Ireland.

Michael Morrow

Michael has been volunteering with PeacePlayers for this past three years through partnership with the Study USA Alumni Association of which he is the chairman. The Study USA program sends Northern Ireland Students to American Colleges for a year to study business and has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Michael Studied Management and Computer Science at Queens University Belfast and graduated in 2002 after having also spent a year at the University of Evansville in Indiana Studying Business. He worked in England as a Software Developer for Atos Origin before returning to Northern Ireland to work for the PRM Group of companies which is his family business. PRM is Ireland’s largest independent chilled foods company employing 200 staff in Sales, Logistics, Transport and Manufacturing. Michael is a keen motorcyclist and is the Head Road Captain and Webmaster for the Belfast Chapter Harley Owners Group.

Alan McNally

As Design Director in Page Setup, Alan is responsible for devising design strategy and ensuring the companies Clients are communicating, efficiently and effectively. A chartered designer, he has been involved in the design and delivery of many high profile campaigns for both the public and private sectors and spent many years overseas working for major design and advertising agencies including the Mojo agency in Australia.  With over 23 years experience in design and marketing he continually addresses all elements within the ever changing communications field. A keen sportsman, Alan fought for Ireland’s main Karate team who were based in Dublin, throughout the golden years of karate (late 80s up to 1994) and was one of the youngest fighters to represent Ireland at full international level gaining over 14 full international caps. He was also awarded one of the highest grades in Ireland at that time by the legendary Tatsuo Suzuki, 8th Dan (Hanshi). He has also a keen interest in boxing and was involved in coaching both Karate and Boxing in areas of social deprivation throughout Belfast. He still maintains a strong interest in sport and the benefits it can deliver.

James Magowan

James has had a diverse career working in a range of disciplines, from agriculture, through European affairs, to philanthropy, in the private, public and voluntary sectors. He has held numerous senior executive positions in the past twenty years. Currently he is the Director the European Network of Associations of Charitable Foundations (DAFNE) and is the NI Development Officer for the UK Association of Charitable Foundations. In addition to his degree and PhD in Agriculture, James has a Diploma (with Distinction) in Management Practice (Audit Skills) from the Chartered Institute of Finance and Administration, and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). He brings substantial experience of the business and community sectors; fundraising; and grant-making, having worked as Programme Manager for the Special EU Programmes Body, Deputy Director of the Northern Ireland Centre in Europe, and Principal Consultant with Local and Regional Development Planning. James was a Senior Fellow at the City University of New York’s Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society in 2007 and participated on the Trans Atlantic Community Foundation Fellowship Programme in 2004 in both cases focusing on diaspora philanthropy. James has been active in the non-profit sector for many years, being the founding chair of a community association in Mountnorris, Co. Armagh, Chairman of PeacePlayers International for 6 years, a Governor of Dungannon Integrated College, and a ranger on the Sustrans National Cycle Network. A very long time ago he played basketball for Ulster Schools and Queen’s University. James lives near Poyntzpass, and is married with four children.

Jayne Simms

has taught in primary and post primary schools in Belfast and is now an Assistant Advisory Officer for Primary Schools in the Southern Education and Library Board. She has responsibility for the Schools Community Relations Programme in that board. The SCRP is a programme funded directly by the Department of Education which provides training and resources for schools in the controlled and maintained sectors to work together on collaborative projects focusing on mutual respect and understanding. She is also involved in the design and implementation of training days and resources for teachers involved in the delivery of Personal Development and Mutual Understanding with a specific focus on dealing with difficult or sensitive Northern Irish issues.

Our Partners

Community Relations Council
Community Fund
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Northern Ireland Executive
Halifax Foundation
The Ireland Funds
TBUC Camps

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Office Address: 224 Lisburn Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT9 6GE
Phone Number: +972-3-510-2358
Email: infome@peaceplayers.org
Hours: Sun-Thur 9:00 - 17:00

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© 2021 PeacePlayers PRIVACY POLICY