Funded by the International Fund for Ireland – Building Sustainable Peace and Prosperity

On Friday (11th July), local residents and community representatives joined together to recognise the achievements of participants in the Sparkle Project run by Louth Leader Partnership. Funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the project works to help women from Cox’s Demesne and Muirhevnamor in Dundalk develop new personal and creative skills through  a sixteen -week course focusing on personal development.


The project includes sessions on life coaching, IT training, photography, communications skills, stress management and team-building as well as arts and crafts modules, such as dressmaking and sowing. A cross-border workshop was also held in conjunction with The Vine Centre in Belfast looking at issues affecting women from both communities.


The Sparkle project is funded under the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Impact Programme, which aims to build sustainable peace and prosperity in areas suffering from high levels of economic and social deprivation. Under this programme, the International Fund for Ireland is providing €173,000 to Louth Leader Partnership to support a range of four projects that will work to promote economic prosperity and build greater cohesion within the local communities.


The target projects focus on young people, families, training and education and include elements designed to encourage participants to up-skill and increase learning, qualifications and employment opportunities.

Four Louth Leader projects funded by International Fund for Ireland:


  1. Family Development Programme
  2. Women & Violence – Support Plan
  3. Integrated Pre-School/Primary School Support Programme
  4. Strengthening Families Programme


Speaking at the event, David Graham, Board Member of the International Fund for Ireland stated that the Fund is committed to delivering real and positive transformation in communities through its Peace Impact Programme. He stated: “We are proud to be associated with the Sparkle Project and the important work being done by Louth Leader Partnership to create new opportunities for people living in communities such as Cox’s Demesne and Muirhevnamor. We believe this project will have a lasting impact by promoting social stability and prosperity by empowering participants with the skills to needed to contribute toward building a better future for their communities.”


Mr Graham also expressed a collective thanks to the international donors who have supported the work of the International Fund for Ireland for more than twenty-five years – the United States of America, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


Acknowledging the generous support received from the International Fund for Ireland, Frank O’Brien, Chairman of  Louth Leader Partnership said: “The success of the Sparkle Project in providing women from Cox’s Demesne and Muirhevnamor with new personal and creative skills has exceeded our expectations. The project has given participants the confidence and tools to engage more actively in their local communities, helping to grow self-esteem and promote leadership capacity among those involved. Through the training provided, the project has created new opportunities that will lead to an improvement in quality of life, for both the women involved and their communities.

We hope to use our own Local & Community Development Programme funding to continue to work with the women who are receiving certificates today, and to help them to map out new directions for themselves and their children, as well as further developing the skills they have learned with the assistance of the IFI funding.”

Chairman of Louth Leader Partnership, Mr. Frank O'Brien - Speech.

Welcome to everyone – we are especially that  David Graham, a Board Member      from International Fund for Ireland has been able to join us.

As you may be aware,  this programme was originally  due to be delivered mainly by the Dundalk Women’s Aid team, but sadly the funding difficulties they endured last year meant they lost their new premises, and as a result,  were unable to take on this particular project.

Through the tireless work of Mary Kelly, our Social Inclusion Manager, Louth Leader Partnership stepped in to develop an appropriate package and to recruit the participants from the core areas.  The programme ran over 16 weeks, having originally been a 16 week project. We come to the end of that part of the process today.

Dundalk has not always been an easy place to live, and the terrible legacy of violence in decades gone by still resonates in particular areas, and patterns of behaviour experienced in childhood can often be played out through the next generation – often with deadly effect.  It is that legacy that this programme, and the others supported by IFI in our Family Focus series of activities have sought to address, by providing you with the personal skills to develop your individual creativity, work out your own life plans, and grow and develop as individuals, and members of your communities.

Our thanks go to all the tutors covering all these interesting topics.  The existence of the Creative Spark Centre has been of enormous help to us in providing the venue and trainers to meet your needs, but in particular to Belinda McGuirk, who was a fantastic co-ordinator, making sure everything was in the right place at the right time, and most of all being a great listener whenever it was needed by someone in the group. 

You have all now made a start on a journey – we want to keep that process going.  After a short break we will look at what funding we can manage in the Local & Community Development Programme, and try to put something together later on in the year to build on your achievements so far.

Due to illness, Mary Kelly is unable to be with us today, but her message to you is well done, and that she is so very proud of each and every one of you.  We thank Mary for all her hard work on your behalf and wish her a speedy recovery.  We thank Gwen in the IFI for her patience and support on this project and on the overall programme.

It has been a pleasure for Louth Leader Partnership to deliver this important initiative.  Enjoy the celebration of your achievements today and good luck for the future.


Frank O’Brien

Chairman, Louth Leader Partnership