Junior Ministers Gordon Lyons and Declan Kearney joined singer and actress Bronagh Gallagher and footballing hero Liam Coyle today (Friday, 26th June) to launch a new employability project in Derry-Londonderry, operated by Extern.

The Back on Track programme, which is funded by The Executive Office as part of the Communities in Transition (CiT) programme, and managed by Co-Operation Ireland will provide employability and training opportunities to those aged 16-plus living in the Brandywell and Creggan areas of the city.

Speaking during the online launch, Junior Minister Lyons said: “We can all make a difference, and make our communities more united and places where everyone feels welcome. The Executive, through the Communities in Transition programme, is determined to be part of that effort – particularly in these challenging times.

“This employability project for the Creggan and Brandywell areas provides wraparound support, training and new skills that will enable local people to access employment. I commend everyone involved in developing this project, and will watch its progress with interest.”

Junior Minister Kearney added: “This project has the potential to transform the lives of many local people by providing them with pathways into work. It is an opportunity for them to develop essential employability skills and experience with one-to-one mentoring and support throughout.

“It is also an opportunity for employers to support their local community and to benefit from fully subsidised and supported work placements at a time when so many people and businesses are struggling with the massive economic and social implications of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

“I am delighted The Executive Office is supporting Extern in this important initiative in the Creggan and Brandywell areas. It will make a real difference to people's lives and improve the prospects of future generations.”

The project aims to improve employability skills and create meaningful pathways into work for those who have been involved in, or are at a higher risk of becoming involved in, paramilitary or coercive activity.

Those taking part in the project will engage in an intensive programme of activity, aimed at overcoming barriers to employability. This includes work-readiness mentoring, soft skills development and wrap-around training, as well as a 24-week paid work placement with a suitable local employer. Participants will also benefit from site visits and field trips, as well as accredited educational and vocational training programmes tailored to their specific needs.

During the event, guests heard from actress and singer Bronagh Gallagher, who grew up in the Creggan area of the city, and who has starred in hit films such as Pulp Fiction and The Commitments, as well as acclaimed stage productions such as War Horse. She also read an excerpt from ‘Opportunity is Nowhere’ by Maya Angelou to close the event.

She said: “I know from my own experience, that making the most of opportunities which come your way can be scary, and sometimes tough to follow through on. If you stick with them though, they can also be fantastic and lead to really good things in your life.

“That’s why I’m delighted to join Extern to launch this project today. Thanks to the funding from The Executive Office, they are now going to be able to really make an impact for people in the Creggan and Brandywell areas, and open up whole new horizons for them in terms of their futures. I also want to encourage the brilliant community and employers here to really get behind Back on Track and make it work.”

Former Derry City forward Mr Coyle shared how his determination to succeed as a footballer saw him become a record goal-scorer for the club, as well as playing internationally for Northern Ireland. He said: “I know the importance of access to fantastic training opportunities on and off the pitch, and also the importance of the type of support which backs you up and enables you to keep going for your goals. Extern’s newest project is here to do that, getting people back on track with community-led support and real employability opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing local employers really get behind it.”

Back on Track Programme Manager Lyndsey O’Neill said: “To have Ministers Lyons and Kearney launch our Back on Track project, and to have local heroes Bronagh Gallagher and Liam Coyle, and local employer Alan Dunlop join us today, signifies the importance of this project within the city.

“Extern has been changing lives in Derry/Londonderry for many years and I want to thank The Executive Office and Co-Operation Ireland for enabling us to continue to do that. Working with employers across the city, and supporting participants with their skills development and training on this journey will have a huge impact not only in their lives, but also on their wider communities and future generations for many years to come.”

Lucy Geddes, Communities in Transition Project Manager for Co-operation Ireland said: "When we spoke to people in Creggan and Brandywell there was a clear need for employability support to provide alternative pathways for those at risk of being drawn into paramilitary or criminal activities. I am delighted to see this project idea become a reality and look forward to seeing the real difference it can make in the lives of participants and the local community."

For details on the work of The Executive Office and Cooperation Ireland, please follow:


Twitter - @ExecOfficeNI @cooperationirl

Facebook - @CooperationIreland

Instagram - @cooperationireland


For further details on the Back on Track project, as well as Extern’s other projects across Ireland, please visit www.extern.org or follow Extern on social by searching for @externcharity.