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Ballymacash Sports Academy, based in Ballymacash outside Lisburn, Co. Antrim has been able to install a new floodlit 3G pitch, car park and spectator fencing thanks to a Social Finance loan from Community Finance Ireland.

But this is just the start of the club’s ambitious developments. As Chairman Phil Trimble comments:

“It feels like the building work going up is us just getting started. There is an unstoppable force, an army of volunteers, coaches, people behind the scenes and our committee who put in phenomenal efforts to make the club what it is. It’s a brilliant place to be with a great vibe. It’s all really really positive.

In addition to providing sporting facilities on the pitch for their members, they have teamed up with local community development organisations to create a community garden and allotments which has had lasting social impact for the groups involved. One such community group led by Karl Bothwell said:

“We’ve been kindly welcomed in by the Ballymacash Sports Academy. Our young adults come here three days per week and they work at the allotments, planting vegetables and then they take the vegetables they have grown and donate them to local foodbanks and homeless charities.”

Two young adults tending to their allotments at the Ballymacash Sports Academy

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 sports clubs, social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans, with £5.6m of that going to sporting organisations like Ballymacash.

Peter Smyth, Client Manager at Community Finance Ireland added:

“In the case of Ballymacash Sports Academy, the improved facilities has led to an increased sporting success by the club and greater usage by local schools and groups. The collective ambitions and efforts of the committee and the wider community is admirable and one that we were keen to support with social finance funding. Often capital projects like this one creates new facilities, but it also helps build momentum and shows that the club committee is delivering on the club development plan.”

During the BBC’s coverage of the Ballymacash Rangers v Glentoran match on 2 February, the broadcaster kindly featured the community’s efforts. You can play this back here at 1:13:40 in.

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today. We speak finance, but we hear people and we’re listening.  

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On 9th October 2023, Sport NI opened a new £1million pound capital investment fund which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of sports clubs throughout Northern Ireland and contribute to a more sustainable sports club network.

Funded by The National Lottery, the Renewable Energy Fund will support sports clubs with infrastructure upgrades such as solar energy systems, air and ground source heating systems, sustainable water recycling solutions, and floodlight upgrades.

The Renewable Energy Fund will be delivered as a pilot programme in 2023/24, as Sport NI gathers information on which environmental interventions have the greatest impact within sports clubs. The fund was developed using feedback from sports clubs through Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Investment will be spread across Northern Ireland with at least one club from each of the 11 council areas being selected to take part. To be eligible, clubs must have completed Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance for Northern Ireland at Community Finance Ireland said:

“I welcome the announcement of this new initiative from Sport NI which will enable sports clubs across Northern Ireland to invest in infrastructure upgrades in line with renewable energy ambitions. Not only will the initiative have a positive impact on the environment but it will reduce clubs’ long term energy costs, allowing them to invest the savings into other areas of the clubs’ development.”

WHO CAN APPLY?

  • The Renewable Energy Fund Pilot Programme will only accept applications from sports organisations in Northern Ireland who either own or operate their own sports facilities.

WHAT TYPE OF PROJECTS CAN BE FUNDED?

  • Sport NI are interested in taking forward the following types of energy projects within sports clubs:
  • Solar Energy Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Air Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Ground Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Sustainable Water Recycling Systems.
  • Fixed Floodlight Upgrades (Specifically upgrades to LED Bulbs and Connection to Grid).
  • Sport NI may consider alternative interventions if recommended in your club energy audit, and if the benefits of that intervention have been clearly articulated.

If you are ready to apply to the Sport NI Renewable Energy Fund, click here for more details.

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers €3.8million in support of local sports clubs –

The oldest skiff-rowing club in Dublin will be launching their traditional skiffs from a modern new pontoon at the mouth of the River Liffey thanks to support from Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

Founded in 1936, St Patrick’s Rowing Club in Ringsend has taken the All-Ireland Senior Skiff Race title 16 times in the last 20 years and has secured gold in international competitions in London and Italy. The club now boasts a membership of 100 people, aged from 9 to 90.

Treasurer at St. Patrick’s Rowing Club, David Cox said that the new infrastructure will enable the club to streamline their activities – getting their heavy training boats on the water with less manpower – and crucially make their boats fully accessible for wheelchair users. He said:

“Skiff racing originates from hobbling – a competitive business which saw working boats race to approaching ships to pilot them into port and win the contract of unloading and loading their cargo.. When this practice was outlawed in 1936, clubs began to appear all along the Dublin coastline and beyond, with our own club here in Ringsend being the first. So much of our community is steeped in this rich history but we also want to give our members the best, most advanced infrastructure that we can and importantly, to make it accessible to everyone in the community. This new pontoon means we can get everyone out on the water to enjoy this fantastic sport.”

Traditional skiff boats are 25 feet long, housing four rowers and a cox.

Pictured at St Patrick’s Rowing Club’s Ringsend base in Dublin City are the club’s youth members

Visiting the new pontoon, Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance Ireland ROI, said:

“Watching the team here at St Patrick’s Rowing Club working together – it really is all hands on deck to move these skiffs down the water but with this new pontoon you can see how much easier that task is for them. It’s taking the strain off the existing members, getting them out on the water quicker, where they want to be and crucially, it’s opening up the sport to a even more people by making the boats more accessible.

“After recent open days, St Patrick’s have welcomed over 60 new members in the last few weeks. The team here – David, Phil, Irene and Richie – have all been involved since childhood and they’re passing their love of the sport on to the next generation. There’s a rich history here in Ringsend and there’s no doubt of the club’s future either.”

Community Finance Ireland provide tailored social finance supports to grassroots and community organisations across Ireland. In 2022, the team delivered over €3.8million in social finance loans to sports clubs such as St Patrick’s Rowing Club which accessed a bridging loan of €40,000 to undertake the planned developments.

This bridging enabled St Patrick’s to unlock two approved grants, from the Sports Capital Grant and from Dublin Waste to Energy Community Gain Projects Grant Scheme.

If you and your sports club need advice on funding options available to you, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter for the latest Community Finance Ireland news.

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Positive and dynamic professional, Mary Nohilly, joins Community Finance Ireland to help volunteers and charities with lending.

Community Finance Ireland is thrilled to announce the appointment of Mary Nohilly as Client Relationship Manager for the Connacht and Donegal Regions.

With a diverse background in the banking and business lending sector, Mary brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success.  During her tenure with financial services, Mary held several key positions, including Business Manager in Roscommon and Dublin & Galway.

In her previous role at the Irish Wheelchair Association, Mary successfully developed and implemented programs to support young school leavers in Tuam, Co Galway. Her efforts focused on enabling people with disabilities to participate fully in the community through personal and social inclusion initiatives.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Business Studies Degree from Dublin City University and is a Qualified Financial Advisor.

Mary Nohilly Community Finance Ireland
Community Finance Ireland’s newly appointed Client Relationship Executive in Connacht and Donegal, Mary Nohilly.

Community Finance Ireland offers tailored financial supports for sports clubs, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Between 2016 and 2022, the organisation funded 51 projects to the value of €5.4 million across the Connacht and Donegal region.

Welcoming the appointment Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance (ROI) said:

“We are delighted to welcome Mary to our team, Her extensive experience, strong work ethic, and dedication to making a positive impact align perfectly with our organization’s values and goals. We look forward to leveraging her expertise to further enhance our client service and success.”

Do you have a project in mind? If you are based in counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim or Sligo get in touch with Mary today. She is ready to hear from you.

Mary Nohilly Community Finance Ireland Contact

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Dolmen Leisure Company CLG has announced it has successfully secured €175,000 in LEADER funding, which has been formally approved by the Donegal Local Development Company and Donegal LCDC, to establish a new Thatching School at the Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney, Portnoo, Co. Donegal.

The project, developed by the committee of Dolmen Leisure Company CLG, aims to support the continuation of the craft of thatching, which is an integral aspect of vernacular architecture in Donegal and Ireland.

With 75% of the construction costs covered by LEADER funding, the committee is actively raising funds to secure the remaining 25% through other funding and donations. The Thatching School will provide training in thatching delivered by master thatchers, who are keen to pass on their skills and knowledge. This unique educational facility will create employment opportunities and boost tourism in the area, offering a rewarding role to those who are seeking to work for themselves.

Speaking about the initiative, Patsy Harkin from Dolmen Leisure Company CLG, said: 

“One of our founding members of The Dolmen Centre, Conal Shovlin, first mooted this idea for Portnoo and tried to secure funding over 20 years ago so we’re thrilled to see our plans come to fruition after all these years. We’re excited to have professionally trained thatchers pass on their skills and keep this dying trade alive. The Thatching School and its construction is no longer a dream but will now be a reality.”

Dolmen Thatched Cottage 1
Sinead McLaughlin, Rural Development Manager DLDC, Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance Ireland ROI, County Councillor Anthony Molloy with the Dolmen Centre Committee and members of the local community who came to celebrate the announcement of the LEADER funding.

Sinéad McLaughlin, Rural Development Manager, DLDC, expressed her support for the Thatching School:

“DLDC is delighted to support the Dolmen Leisure Company CLG in their efforts to establish the Thatching School through its LEADER programme. This project will not only contribute to the preservation of an important cultural heritage but also create employment opportunities and boost tourism in the area.  We look forward to seeing the Thatching School thrive and the continuation of this unique craft.”

Dolmen Leisure also thanked Community Finance Ireland for providing interim finance for the project.  Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance ROI, said: 

The team at Dolmen Leisure Company CLG are a fantastic example of visionary community spirit. We are delighted to be able to help finance this project and welcome the opportunities both of employment and future tourism that the project will bring to the area”.

Paddy Mc Hugh Building Contractors Ltd has been appointed as the local contractor, and Cornerstone Architecture in Ardara will be responsible for the design and supervision of the build. The planning permission was approved by Donegal County Council in mid-2022.

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A dedicated team of ramblers from Community Finance Ireland are covering new terrain in an effort to raise funds for the charity MacMillan Cancer Support.

Our team (humorously named CFI Cirque du Sore Legs) have bravely decided to take on the hilly route around Northern Ireland’s North Coast on 24 June in the hopes of raising a personal target of £250 or a combined total of £1,500. While some are aiming on covering an impressive 13 mile half distance, other team members are geared up to complete the full marathon.

In preparation for the big day Compliance Officer and Employee Engagement Officer Steph Nicholl remarked that:

“I have been strength training at the local gym three times a week. Trying to build up some muscle in my calves, in my quads and in my hamstrings. Taking some smaller tasks to improve endurance, such as taking the twelve flights of stairs every day in the office rather than relying on the lift.”

The team have been spirited by a little bit of friendly competition in the office with each member vying to be top of the steps leaderboard each week. Chief Executive Donal Traynor notes:

“We found ourselves competing with each other trying to get the steps in on a weekly basis. I think I’m lagging very much so in that regard. But there’s still plenty of time to turn it around and for me to catch up in terms of the training.”

There are currently over three million people living with cancer in the United Kingdom while 44,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the Republic of Ireland each year. MacMillan Cancer Support is a charity dedicated to offering healthcare support and financial support to those who have been directly or indirectly affected by cancer.

Finance Officer Sandra Cowan notes the importance of fundraising for a charity like MacMillan, as cancer has had a personal impact on her own family:

MacMillan is a really good cause. Having lost loved ones to cancer, I just want to contribute what I can raise on the day and give that to MacMillan.”

Watch the video below from our team as they prepare for the big day on 24 June. They discuss their expectations, what they’ve done to ready themselves for the hike and why they have chosen to raise funds for MacMillan in particular.

If you would like to support the team’s fundraising activities, you can contribute to their efforts on their JustGiving page here.

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– £18 million social finance provided to Northern Ireland voluntary sector since 2016 –

Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, based outside Ballymoney, is celebrating a win of a different kind. The club is set to repay a £250,000 loan to social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland in full after just five years, following investment in new club facilities including a sand pitch and ball wall. 

With no penalty incurred for early repayment, Loughgiel Shamrocks hit fundraising targets early using a patron scheme fundraising strategy, where members and friends of the club commit to supporting loan repayments.

Sean McNaughton, former Treasurer of Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, said:

“Our Development Committee identified a need for better facilities due to increased participation in sports in the area.  After purchasing land, we needed financial support to construct a sand pitch with floodlights and fencing and an enclosed, floodlit ball wall with a 3G surface.  We knew that Community Finance Ireland was familiar with the GAA and the needs of local clubs, and we very much appreciated their fast decision making, advice and of course flexibility, allowing us to repay our loan early without penalty.”

The facilities at Loughgiel GAC are used by local club teams, Antrim County Hurling and Camogie teams and primary and post primary schools in the area. 

Loughgiel Shamrocks GAA Community Finance Ireland
Peter Smyth visits Loughgiel grounds and hears from its former Treasurer Sean McNaughton and local players benefitting from the new facilities.

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 sports clubs, social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans.

Peter Smyth, Client Manager at Community Finance Ireland added:

“When we provide a loan to a GAA club, often towards a capital project like new facilities, it helps build momentum and shows that the club committee is delivering on the club development plan and is therefore worth supporting.

In the case of Loughgiel GAC, the improved facilities led to an increased sporting success by the club and greater usage by local schools and groups. The collective efforts of the committee, club members and supporters of Loughgiel to repay this finance in just five years, is an example of people power at its very best.”

Community Finance Ireland has provided £18million in social finance to Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector since 2016 and we’re proud £5.6m of that has gone to sporting organisations like Loughiel.

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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Solving problems and creating opportunities for groups in North Leinster and South Ulster.

Bringing over 40 years of experience in financial lending, Colm Prendergast has been appointed as the new Client Relationship Executive in North Leinster and South Ulster for Community Finance Ireland, the fastest-growing social finance provider in Ireland and the UK.

Colm Prendergast joins an all-island team, as the appetite for social finance solutions in the community and voluntary sector continues to grow.

A native of Kilcock Kildare, now living in Blackrock, County Louth, Mr Prendergast will support organisations across the North Leinster and South Ulster regions, working with voluntary-led groups and social enterprises to make social change possible in their local communities. 

Community Finance Ireland’s newly appointed Client Relationship Executive in North Leinster and South Ulster, Colm Prendergast.

Community Finance Ireland offers tailored financial supports for sports clubs, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Between 2016 and 2022, the organisation funded 127 projects to the value of €16.6 million across the Leinster region.

Speaking on his appointment, Mr Prendergast reflected on his how his previous role with the Credit Union Group has put him in good stead for this new venture:

“There’s something of a shared mission between credit unions and Community Finance Ireland- we’re here to help solve problems and create opportunities and every repayment is reinvested.“While the credit union supports individuals, Community Finance Ireland provides tailored supports for community organisations who run them. We don’t ask for personal guarantees, we don’t charge arrangement fees on loans and we’re flexible in a way that traditional high-street lending is not. If a client can repay their loan early, we won’t penalise them for that. I’m delighted to be joining the Community Finance Ireland team and I’m looking forward to hearing all the big ideas which people in have to make social change in their local community. Where I live in Louth with my family, I see how the local sports clubs, arts organisations and social enterprises are at the heart of our local community – all of them led by people power. I’m looking forward to working with new clients to solve problems and create opportunities for social impact.”

Welcoming the appointment Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance (ROI) said:

“Colm brings a wealth of financial expertise to our clients and potential clients across this region. We’re delighted to welcome him on board and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a huge support for community and voluntary organisations within the Cavan, Dublin, Louth, Monaghan and Westmeath regions”

Do you have a project in mind? If you are based in counties Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Monaghan or Cavan get in touch with Colm today. He is ready to hear from you.

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers €1.2million in support of Limerick communities

Newcastle West Tennis Club is ready to welcome new members for 2023 as newly resurfaced courts ensure all-weather access and state of the art facilities for players of all ages and experiences. The club has completed renovations with the support of Community Finance Ireland, an all-island social finance provider. 

Newcastle West Tennis Club, which was founded in 1927, had been closed for seven years when a group of volunteers were inspired to reopen the club during the first 2020 lockdown. The club now has 370 members on its books, aged between six and 70.  

Cllr Tom Ruddle, Chair of Newcastle West Tennis Club, said:

The courts were in a bad state of disrepair. In those first weeks, we put in a lot of hard work to clean the place up. We were determined to bring it up to scratch and received initial Council grants to install floodlights and make improvement to the grounds.”

With further funding needed to resurface the courts, Newcastle West Tennis Club was approved €42.5k in Sports Capital Grants but this presented the group of volunteers with a new challenge.  

“We were delighted to be approved Sports Capital Grant funding, but to access that we had to undertake the works in order to then claim back the grant,” said Cllr Ruddle. “As volunteers we couldn’t take on that kind of financial responsibility from a traditional bank and go into debt for the sake of the club. Luckily, we were able to access a bridging loan from Community Finance Ireland to get started and unlock the grant. It was a fantastic solution.” 

As a social enterprise, Community Finance Ireland provides social finance loans to volunteer-led and community organisations that drive social impact.  

Photographed at Newcastle West Tennis Club are Chairperson Tom Ruddle, Nora Keogh, Community Finance Ireland Client Relationship Manager for Munster, and pupils from Courtenay Boys’ School and Killoughteen National School.

Nora Keogh, Client Relationship Manager for Munster, said:

Newcastle West Tennis Club has such a rich history and it’s an important facility for the town and the wider community. We were delighted to be able to help Tom and the team get their renovations underway and players can get back on the courts. At Community Finance Ireland, we have a wealth of experience working with community organisations and our supports are tailored for their needs- we don’t ask for personal guarantees and our loans are fast, fair and flexible.”

Ms Keogh has played a role in supporting 66 organisations in Munster to access a total of €7 million in social finance supports since 2016. She said: “We’ve worked with nine organisations in Limerick already but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If there are more sports clubs, arts organisations, faith-based groups and social enterprises out there who want to make a change for their local community, I’m here to help them make that possible.” 

Cllr Ruddle says Community Finance Ireland is the only way to go for sports clubs:

It’s a no brainer. What struck me most was the level of trust and personal care from Nora and the Community Finance Ireland team. I’ve been involved in local clubs my whole life and I’d definitely be recommending them to other clubs and community groups in Limerick”

If you and your sporting facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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