Exclusive by Tina Calder
BOXING star and Hellâ€™s Kitchen winner Barry McGuigan is calling on all Northern Ireland parents to send their kids to Integrated Schools.
The former World Champion, who will host Le Grand Ball in aid of the Integrated Education Fund later this month, added that families who send their children to integrated education are making a stand for peace.
He said: â€œIâ€™ve always believed integrated education was the way forward. With all the hostility, the trouble, the hatred and the polarisation of this country, back when I started getting involved it just seemed to me to be the logical way for people to have a future together, to learn to respect one another and to learn to have patience and understanding.
â€œI ask parents â€“ what do you want to see? Do you want to see a society where people are happy, where the children can go out and not worry about getting hurt or damaged, frightened or intimidated?â€
And Barry, who in 1985 officially opened Hazelwood Integrated Primary in Belfast having just won the boxing World Championship, strongly believes integrated education is the first and biggest step to achieving his dream.
â€œThe only way to allow children and young people to actually get to know each other, to appreciate and understand each otherâ€™s cultures, where they come from and what their values is to ultimately educate them togetherâ€ said Barry, adding: â€œWeâ€™re all the same ultimately, we want the same things, I just think that integrated education is the best way forward. Itâ€™s all about learning respectâ€.
On October 20 Barry will host a gala ball at the Europa Hotel in aid of the Integrated Education Fund. He will be joined by a host of celebrity guests, many of whom will be joining him on stage to entertain the crowd.
The 18th Century France themed event is being organised by BC Plant JCB Ltd for in excess of 400 guests.
Brian Small, Northern Ireland Fundraising Manager for the IEF said: â€œWe are delighted that BC Plant JCB Ltd are lending their support to our Campaign.
â€œI am particularly pleased to welcome Barry McGuigan, who is one of the finest ambassadors this country has ever produced. We are looking forward to a spectacular evening, which everyone will enjoy.â€
Also Speaking of why they got involved with the fund Philip Chick, Managing Director of BC Plant JCB Ltd said: â€œIt is a great honour for us to host this event in support of the Integrated Education Fund.
â€œThe Integrated Movement has had such a positive impact on Northern Ireland, and I feel I have a duty to contribute.
â€œThe event will be spectacular and will raise a lot of money for the future of Integrated schools.â€