10 things to do in Northern Ireland

10 things to do in Northern Ireland

Here are ten exciting things to do 1 – 7 January

  1. The Shortcross Gin Discovery and Tasting Experience, Crossgar, County Down, 5 January. This amazing experience takes place on Rademon Estate, which dates back to AD 565. As you arrive and make your way across the stone bridge over the Ballynahinch river, up the winding forest path and onto the distillery grounds, you’ll be welcomed by your Shortcross host. Then it’s time to settle in to your visit by enjoying one of their many show-stopping cocktails at the distillery bar. Your visit includes neat tastings and a lesson on how to pour the perfect G&T, as well as creating a bespoke label and wax dipping your own personalised bottle of gin to take home.
  1. Game of Thrones Music Experience, Banbridge, County Down, 6 January. Experience the magic of the Seven Kingdoms as the Ulster String Quartet take you on a journey through all eight seasons of Game of Thrones with sounds inspired by composer Ramin Djawadi. The performance will be included in the price of admission and visitors will get the chance to hear symphonic tones fill the lobby where you can enjoy the performance with a refreshment at the beginning or end of their tour.
  1. Brian Hurst exhibition, Belfast, County Antrim, 19 October – 11 January. As Northern Ireland’s film industry continues to go from strength to strength, celebrate the life and work of the man often regarded as one of Northern Ireland’s best film directors, Brian Hurst at the Ulster Museum. Born into a working-class family in East Belfast in 1895, Hurst went on to make over thirty films and is perhaps best known for his 1951 ‘A Christmas Carol’ adaption Scrooge. This exhibition, sponsored by Quartertoten Productions Ltd in conjunction with the Brian Desmond Hurst Estate showcases posters, invitations, lobby cards and original press clippings from Hurst’s own scrapbooks.
  1. Share Village on Ice, Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh, 1-4 January. Enjoy a fantastic indoor synthetic rink, which is almost identical to a frozen surface but much more eco-friendly for all the family to enjoy. Whether you’re a budding skater or a confident glider, this wheelchair-friendly ice rink is open to all ages and abilities! Enjoy some festive fun before the holiday season is over.
  1. Gosford Karting, Markethill, County Armagh 1-7 January. Experience the thrill racing outdoors gives you at the Gosford Katring track. A member of the National Karting Association, this high-quality racing service is the perfect way to kickstart your week with some competitive fun with loved ones! Practise sessions for children aged eight years upwards are available on junior karts. For adults with a need for speed, Grand Prix karts are also available on site.
  1. Kelpra: Artists and Printmakers, Belfast, County Antrim, 1 January – April 28. Kelpra was set up by Chris and Rose (nee Kelly) Prater at their kitchen table in 1957 and went on to become one of the most pioneering print studios in history. Combining the commercial techniques of screen-printing with fine art practice. Kelpra was renowned for working in close collaboration with artists to produce daring and eye-catching original prints. The artists in this exhibition worked collaboratively with Kelpra and other print studios and these prints are the result of innovative technical and artistic expertise and the sensitive collaboration between individual artists and printmakers.
  1. New Year’s Day Guided Walk, Donaghadee, County Down, 1 January. Start the new year off on the right foot in the stunning seaside town of Donaghadee, the nearest port to Scotland and the backdrop to BBC’s crime drama, Hope Street. Guided by Dr Robert Neill, immerse yourself in stores from 1600 to the present day. Explore the history of the nearby moat, streets and churches in the town and learn about the heroic actions of the crew of The Sir Samuel Kelly lifeboat which rescued survivors from the MV Princess Victoria in 1953.
  1. Bad Bridget exhibition, Omagh, County Tyrone, throughout January. Learn some of the stories of the thousands of women who left Ireland for North America between 1838 and 1918. The exhibition, based on research from Dr Elaine Farrell and Dr Leanne McCormick, charts these women’s experience of migration through an eclectic mix of sights, sounds, smells and objects. Unlike migrants from other countries, hundreds of thousands of Irish girls travelled alone, and once in America, often faced a life of poverty and hardship.
  1. The Derry Girls Experience, Derry~Londonderry, County Londonderry, throughout January. Visit the home of Derry Girls and discover where it all began, see original memorabilia from the hit show, including Erin’s diary, Aunt Sarah’s pyjamas and Ma Mary’s Woolworths sweater, not to mention the infamous Spice Girls costumes. If you’re a Sister Michael fan don’t miss the chance to sit on her chair and roll your eyes at anyone who crosses your path.
  1. Visit Kearney Village, Portaferry, County Down. Carefully restored by the National Trust to give the authenticity of a traditional fishing village, make sure to visit Kearney village this New Year. The Trust owns a number of cottages in the area and has restored their vernacular style to give authenticity to this place of character. In the nineteenth century, Kearney was a flourishing community that is now an idyllic place of recreation. Just three miles to the east of Portaferry this is the kind of place you could find by accident yet find yourself returning to again and again.


For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/

Offers of the week from Discover Northern Ireland

Everglades Hotel, County Londonderry

Welcome in 2024 in style as you enjoy a sumptuous three course evening meal in The Grill with some of the best starters, filling mains and decadent desserts before a heavenly night’s sleep. Wake up refreshed the next morning before one final treat with a full Irish breakfast before you depart. £165 per room per night based on two people sharing. Visit https://www.evergladeshotelderry.com/  for more information.

Aurora, County Antrim

Located just a mile away from the world-famous Giant’s Causeway, Aurora occupies a truly magical vantage point on the tip of the North Antrim coast. With this special weekend offer you can embrace a relaxing start to the new year, staying Friday and Saturday from £295 per night. If the rejuvenating venue and breathtaking views tempt you into staying longer, you can add Sunday to your weekend break for only an extra £100. Visit https://www.auroranorthcoast.com/ for more information.

Book in advance to avoid disappointment. Subject to availability.

For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/

Crusaders Strikers Welcome Rising Star Mia Moore To Their Team

In a significant boost to their squad, Crusaders Strikers have officially announced the signing of the promising young footballer, Mia Moore.

The 16-year-old midfielder, renowned for her scoring prowess, joins the Strikers after a stellar debut senior season with Linfield, where she netted an impressive 10 goals.

Jonny Tuffey, the manager of Crusaders Strikers, said he was delighted to add Mia to the team: “For someone still young in age, she has good experience playing at the first-team level as well as internationally, at U17 and U19.

“Mia’s talent and ability are clear for everyone to see, and we believe she will add strength to what I believe is already a very good group, making us more threatening in the final third.”

Moore’s football journey has been impressive from the start. She captained the U15 Bob Doc squad and progressed through the ranks to earn a call-up for the U19s at just 16.

Tuffey said the management and coaching team was “impressed” by her focus and ambition: “From speaking to Mia, it was so refreshing to hear that her sole focus was playing football, wanting to learn, develop, and improve, as well as helping us improve and become even more competitive in seasons ahead.”

Sue O’Neill, the Director of Women’s Football at Crusaders Football Club and Chairperson of Crusaders Strikers said choosing players that fit the Strikers and Crusaders club ethos is a vital part of the selection process.

She added: “Qualities we look for are a commitment to the club and a professional attitude to improving their ability.

“We have always been a club that nurtures youth, with over seven players in our first team coming through our academy.

“Mia adds to this ethos with her youth and enthusiasm to play for Strikers. There is a great support network of people who all want the player to do well.

“We also believe in checking out our players’ mental health to make sure they are valued and understood.

“We don’t just want great footballers; we want to create good people. Football provides players with great life skills.

“Setting goals, working as a team, dealing with setbacks, then going again. The Crusaders women’s football team is a family.”

Reflecting on her signing, Mia Moore said: “A couple of years ago, I came, trained, and played a match with Crusaders. I was probably around like ten or 11. But I was given an opportunity at another club.

“With the Strikers, what made me sign on the dotted line was everything from the first meeting I had with Jonny, which was great.

“Also, the Seaview Stadium facilities, and everything that goes with that is great. I played against the team last year, and I’m really excited to meet all the players and go win some games.

“Thinking ahead for the new season, I hope that we can win some trophies and move up the table.”

Moore’s addition to Crusaders Strikers heralds an exciting era for the club, signalling their commitment to fostering young talent and achieving success in the competitive world of women’s football.

Ards and North Down Launches Exciting Arts and Heritage Spring Programme!

Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Arts and Heritage Spring Programme has just been released! The exciting schedule of events, exhibitions, classes, workshops and talks, covers the January to April 2024 period and is now available online to view and for bookings.

With the New Year, comes plenty of opportunity to learn a new skill or try your hand at something new. The Creative Classes and One-Day Workshop series at Ards Arts Centre includes Drawings Skill, Ceramics, Observational Oil Painting and lots more!

Music lovers will be spoiled with events to suit all tastes. The Ards International Guitar Festival is taking place from 17 – 21 April in various venues around Newtownards. Highlights of this year’s festival include Classical Virtuoso Manus Noble and previous Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Sarah McQuaid. Kyle Riley is also returning to entertain little ones with his unique family-fun concert, Little Folk on the Road. The popular Friday Night Live events also return to Ards Arts Centre with Roving Out, The High Lonesome and a night celebrating Irish Rock with Paul McMordie and friends.

For literary fans, Aspects Festival is holding two special Festival Club events at Bangor’s Imperial Bar, inviting writers to come along and read some of their work in a welcoming environment. For young readers, Young Aspects offers a weekend of book-inspired children’s activities, taking place 1 – 3 March.

North Down Museum is delighted to launch a new series of Hidden History Talks on a range of fascinating topics, themed around its exhibition series. The museum will also open its doors for the popular family friendly Arts Night at the Museum on Friday 22 March. The historical museum building will be filled with local artists providing arts and crafts activities for you to participate in, experience or observe. This free event is fun for the whole family. Little Historians will enjoy the history-themed Easter scheme at the museum including dress-up, games and craft themed activity.

Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift? Online ticket pre-sales for all music events and enrolment for all classes and workshops are available from Thursday 14 December.

Speaking about the programme, Emily Crawford, Arts and Heritage Manager for Ards and North Down Borough Council said: “We have plenty on offer on our Spring programme, from creative classes to live music and family events. I would encourage everyone to check out the programme online or pick up a copy of our brochure from Ards Arts Centre or North Down Museum and book your tickets early!”

To view the full programme, book tickets or enrol in a class or workshop, visit: www.andculture.org.uk

Belfast Agency Excalibur Press To Launch 2024 Training Webinar Series

When it comes to marketing your business, product or service most small businesses will depend on digital channels such as their website, social media and other platforms such as Google My Business.

According to Fit Small Business 70% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy whilst Linkedin reveals 90% of companies in general will leverage websites and blogs the most in their content marketing strategy.

In order to truly maximise the opportunities available online to market and promote your business it’s important to have a robust digital and content marketing strategy and plan.

According to Invoca 81% of shoppers say they’ll conduct online research before making an in-store or online purchase.

With this in mind, Belfast based multidisciplinary marketing and communications agency Excalibur Press has launched a new webinar training series with both free and paid for sessions aimed at helping businesses create a social media content strategy, improve their blogging and content marketing, as well as giving top tips and tricks to creating effective communications for promoting your product online and thought leadership. 

Delivered by trainer and content strategist Tina Calder, the sessions will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning on January 2. They will include How To Set Up Your Social Media Content Strategy & Plan For 2024 (January 2), 45 Marketing Assets You Need To Have A Successful 2024 (January 11),  Raising Your Profile Using Thought Leadership (February 15) and The Power Of Influencer For Promoting Your Business (February 22).

Speaking of the sessions Tina said: “Micro, small and medium businesses more than ever before need support and assistance with their marketing. 

“For many of those businesses that spend is a luxury and often the first to go when things get tough.

“There’s no question the last few years have taken their toll on business owners and the fight to survive and thrive has become a crowded space.”

Tina explained the 90 minute sessions are specifically designed to “offer business owners practical and actionable support that will help them streamline, maximise and optimise their marketing activity.”

She added: “Throughout the sessions I will be revealing all the tools, systems and processes we use at Excalibur Press to create good quality content and marketing tactics for our clients as well as lift the lid on the secrets other professionals don’t want you to know.

“These sessions will help businesses reduce their stress levels when it comes to creating a social media content strategy, improving their blogging and content marketing as well as creating effective communications for promoting their product online and honing their marketing messages and brand story.

To book on to any of the forthcoming webinars go to excaliburpress.co.uk/events 

4 Corners Festival 2024 Reveals Programme Highlights At Launch Event

The annual 4 Corners Festival is set to return in February 2024 with a packed lineup of events which include everything from talks, discussions and exhibitions to music and literature.

Now in its 12th year, the festival was conceived as a way to inspire people from across the city to transform it for the peace and wellbeing of all.

The festival features a range of music, discussion, sport and faith-inspired events and will run from February 1 to 11 in venues in all four corners of the city. 

Speaking at the launch at The Hub Belfast, committee member George Sproule said:

“We’re great at telling stories, but sometimes we need to challenge the stories that we do tell. The other thing is that sometimes we’re not very good at listening to other people’s stories.

“A well written and well told story changes the way you think about things and changes the way you look at the world.

“Our theme this year is OUR STORIES…Towards A Culture Of Hope. We want each other to listen to each other’s stories and the events throughout the festival are designed to do just that.”

With storytelling at the heart of the forthcoming festival renowned storyteller Liz Weir was on hand at the launch to discuss the importance of storytelling in today’s world.

She said: ”I really believe that stories are transformational. Because it’s very difficult to hate somebody, once you know their story. Isn’t that true? 

“Even if you disagree with another person, just pay them the respect of listening to what they have to say. I feel that very strongly. 

“In the work I do and have done for 50 years now, I’ve seen a lot of that. The impact that a good story can have because the listening is the most important thing”

Attendees of the launch were also given a unique preview of the Blue Lights story when journalist Tyree Patton interviewed screenwriter Declan Lawn. At the festival in February Declan and Tyree will be joined by Declan’s writing partner Adam Patterson.

Declan said: “I was really gratified to see the tagline of the festival, towards a culture of hope. For those of you who have seen the show we made, Blue Lights, there is a lot of darkness in it, it’s sort of a valley of darkness in many ways, but it is profoundly hopeful and profoundly optimistic. That’s the message of the show.”

The 4 Corners Festival believes in embracing our shared humanity, fostering connections, and creating a space where meaningful conversations can flourish. Each year the festival returns with a renewed purpose of transforming hearts, bridging divides, and leaving a lasting mark of positivity on Belfast.

The Cancer Focus Sing For Life Choir was on hand at the launch to entertain with a range of big hits and gospel numbers. 

Revealing the highlights of the festival was volunteer Shannon Campbell who said: “We have some pre-festival events in the run up to the 4th of February, but the 4 Corners Festival officially starts on Sunday the 4th. 

“That evening, we’re going to have author Claire Hayns in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, who is one of the chaplains at Christ Church, Oxford. Her book Unveiled is about the lesser known women in Scripture. Claire’s going to be talking to us a bit about her book and she will be joined by her son who illustrated the book.

“On Monday, university students from across the city will gather at Queen’s University, where Claire will host a lunchtime discussion with students about the book. 

“On Tuesday 6th of February, we’re going to have Elma Walsh joining us at Ekenhead Memorial Halls. Elma is the mother of Donal Walsh who was diagnosed with cancer in his teens. Donal was moved by his situation, and also by the pretty harrowing suicide statistics in Ireland that year, to make a difference and to spread the message of hope among young people throughout the UK and Ireland. Elma and his whole family set up the Donal Walsh Foundation to continue that message of hope today among young people. Elma will speak to us about that and the Live Life message. 

“On Wednesday, we will have our Blue Lights story event which will be taking place in All Saints College on the Glen Road and it will take the form of a Q&Q. 

“On Thursday 8th, Celebrating Young Voices Hopes For The Future at 7.30pm at 2 Royal Avenue. So we’re going to hear about the stories of young people who are leading the way in various spheres of influence.

“The festival will officially draw to a close on Sunday 11th of February with an event entitled Towards A Culture Of Hope at St Comgall’s on the Divis Street, where Reverend Doug Gay will be talking about what a hopeful imagination looks like, and how we can discover that on the streets of our city.”

The 4 Corners Festival is supported by The Executive Office’s Central Good Relations Fund, The Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund and Belfast City Council Good Relations Fund.

All festival events are free of charge, with most open to the public, although advance booking of tickets is mandatory. Select events will be streamed online on the official 4 Corners Festival YouTube and Facebook accounts.

Tickets for the event will be available to book on the website.

For more information about the festival and to keep up to date with programme updates go to 4cornersfestival.com


 – Festive Events to Take Place on Site at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium this December –

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium has announced a number of family friendly Christmas themed events that will take place on site during December 2023.

These include:

Visitors Enjoying a Dome Show at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Astronaut George, a 15 minute toddler Dome Show that will run at various times from 27th   December to 30th December 2023. During this show, George investigates the best planet to live on and the dangers lurking on the surface of other planets in our Solar System. But will he find any alien friends to play with? Join us and find out in this interplanetary adventure!

The show is suitable for pre-school children who must be accompanied by an adult. The ticket includes exhibition entry.

Perfect Little Planet, a 30-minute family Dome Show that will run at various times from 27th   December to 30th December 2023. The show allows you to discover our Solar System from the perspective of a family from another star system, who are seeking the perfect vacation spot. Fly over the surface of Pluto, our best-known Dwarf Planet. Dive down the ice cliffs of Miranda. Sail through the rings of Saturn. Feel the lightning storms at Jupiter and walk on the surface of Mars. Which destination would you choose?

Children under 16 should be accompanied by an adult. The ticket includes exhibition entry.

Our Solar System, a live, 35-minute family Dome Show suitable for all age groups, will run at various times from 16th December to 30th December 2023.

In this interactive show, produced by the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, you can sit back, relax and enjoy an out of this world tour of the Solar System. See the planets up close, safely gaze at the Sun, and let your presenter guide you to where you want to go!

Children under 16 should be accompanied by an adult. The ticket includes exhibition entry.

Look Up! A Winter Night Sky Tour. Suitable for adults and those aged over eight, this seasonal tour around the night sky as seen from Ireland, will run at various times from 27th   December to 30th December 2023.

Let Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s presenters guide you through the beautiful objects and constellations seen at this time of year. This show is ideal for anyone starting out in astronomy or interested in learning about what can be seen in the night sky.

We are Guardians, a 25-minute Dome Show suitable for adults and those aged over six, this will run at various times from 27th December to 30th December 2023. The show looks at how ecosystems are intrinsically connected and, with the increasing use of Satellite Monitoring, examines the links between human activities and climate change.

Children under 16 should be accompanied by an adult. The ticket includes exhibition entry.

Moonbase: The Next Step, a 30-minute Dome Show suitable for adults and children aged over eight, this will run at various times from 27th December to 28th December 2023.

It has been over 50 years since humankind last set foot on the Moon and now we are going back to stay. The show tells the story of this human endeavour, visualising the scientific and technological advances needed to safely travel 250,000 miles and survive hostile and alien conditions. How do we establish a foothold on the Moon? Can we explore the vast landscape and extract the resources needed to live there on a permanent basis?

Children under 16 should be accompanied by an adult. The ticket includes exhibition entry.

Stargazing evening, which will run from 7-9pm on 29th December. Suitable for adults and children aged over eight, this two-hour session at Armagh Planetarium will see a team of experts help you navigate the night sky using telescopes (weather depending) along with a dome show in the digital theatre and an astronomer talk.

This session will be a Telescope clinic with the Irish Astronomical Association.

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (50th Anniversary Special), a 45-minute music Dome Show suitable for those aged over 16, which will run at various times during 29th December and 30th December.

The new show, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s iconic album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ sets the album to stunning 360° visuals of our Solar System and beyond.

Children Under 16 must be accompanied by an adult, as the show contains infrequent use of strong language. The show also has some flashing images and visuals, which may cause a sensation of movement.

To book tickets for these events, visit: https://armaghobservatoryplanetarium.ticketsolve.com

Healthy Mind Coach Provides Support For Those Struggling With Loneliness During Christmas


As the New Year fast approaches Sam Barr, Healthy Mind Coaching extends his support to those struggling with loneliness this festive period.


Christmas can churn up mixed emotions for many people, especially those who have lost loved ones or who live alone. Although these emotions can feel inescapable it is important to acknowledge that there are ways to turn this festive season into a positive one.


Sam Barr of Healthy Mind Coaching & Training in Belfast said: “Sadly, as Christmas comes around so many people struggle with feeling alone. It is important at this time of year to reach out to friends and family. If this feels particularly overwhelming perhaps it’s time to speak to a professional.”

“I hope people can take a brave step at this isolating time of year to put themselves first. Reaching out can be daunting but it is so important to nurture your mental & emotional wellbeing.”

Sam’s company Healthy Mind Coaching & Training offers a range of services including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and counselling for both individuals and professionals. To encourage people to reach out for their mental health he offers a free 20 minute initial consultation. 

To help people through this challenging time of year Sam provides his advice for people struggling with loneliness:

1. Reach Out To Friends And Family

“Often when people are struggling with loneliness the hardest step is to be vulnerable and explain how you feel. Speak to somebody who you trust and explain how you feel isolated this year.”

“You could fill up your schedule by organising to see each other more often. The support of loved ones is so important and might help you to feel less alone at a difficult time of the year.”

2. Try Out A New Hobby

“Use the festive period as the perfect chance to try something different. The lack of daylight in the winter means it is essential to get out there to boost your mood.”

“You could try a new exercise class, a new crafting hobby or going to a social group. A weekly activity will help you to feel a sense of community and boost your mood when you are feeling low.”

3. Self-Care

“Although you might feel particularly alone it is important that you take time to look after yourself. Small rituals dedicated to making yourself feel better will help to support your mental health.”

“Take time to evaluate what makes you happy and how you would like to spend your time. When you feel more confident in yourself, socialising and speaking to loved ones will feel easier.”

4. Be Prepared For Bumps In The Road

“Sometimes the path to feeling better isn’t linear. You need to give yourself grace when you have small setbacks.”

“See setbacks as a learning experience, use them to evaluate whether your thoughts about a situation are true and rational. Ultimately you might experience a few small setbacks which can help you feel like your usual self again.”

5. Seek Professional Help

“If you feel particularly overwhelmed this festive season perhaps it’s time to reach out for professional help. Professionals can offer an impartial perspective allowing you to explain just how you feel without any judgement.”

“I hope that people feel ready to speak up this festive season.”

Learn more about Healthy Mind Coaching and Training or book your free 20-min consultation by calling Sam today on 07906 869616 or go to healthymindcoaching.co.uk 

New Memoir ‘Second Chances’ Recounts Pro Hockey Player’s Battle With Brain Cancer


Craigavon born pro hockey player Matthew Bell thought not being selected for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro was the worst day of his life. Little did he know the hardest times were ahead of him.

Once an international hockey player, Matthew’s life was upended when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumour while playing professionally in Germany. 

Despite the hard times Matthew has now released a new biography recounting his journey back to the pitch through facing multiple surgeries, the loss of basic human life skills, and a gruelling rehabilitation. 

When it came to sharing his story, Matthew, 28, was inspired by someone with a similar experience.

He explained: “Whenever I was going through my recovery I watched a youtube video of a police officer who had a brain stem stroke. I couldn’t believe how similar our recovery processes were and I saw that she had written a book.

“I messaged her and she sent me the book out and I read it in two days, I couldn’t set it down. It made me want to document my recovery.”

Matthew spent six weeks in hospital in Germany and endured five surgeries before being flown home to Belfast by air ambulance to start cancer treatment. While away from home he stopped eating, talking and walking for seven weeks. Matthew’s parents were told by the consultant neurologist that he couldn’t tell them if their son would ever walk or talk again.

“The first day I ran unaided my dad said to me he didn’t think he’d ever see me run again. I was in a wheelchair for two months so the first time I ran unaided, I cried.”

“A lot of people have said over the course of my recovery that it’s inspirational and all these different things and I thought if I could get that down into a few words, if it can help benefit the charity that I stayed in for my cancer treatment as well then why not? 

“The idea behind the book is if you do feel like there is something wrong go get yourself checked out because you never know what the issue could be.”

For Matthew the future looks bright. “ I’m back playing hockey. I’m assistant coach for the men’s firsts at Banbridge and I’m helping out with a couple of Ulster things as well. I’ve also recently got engaged and I’d like to say thanks to Jane for being by my side and helping me with the book. You’ve been my rock over the last couple of years and I can’t wait to get married.”

Matthew’s book, published by Excalibur Press, is on sale now with a launch to be announced at a later date, where Matthew will be signing copies of the book along with talking about his journey in conversation with publisher Tina Calder.

Speaking of the book Tina Calder, director at Excalibur Press, said: “Matthew’s journey is one of resilience, strength and sheer determination to overcome the odds. He is an inspiration and this book is a first hand account of the ups and downs of his incredible journey.

“We are absolutely delighted that Matthew chose to publish with Excalibur Press.”

Second Chances, which will support Friends of The Cancer Centre, is £9.99 and is available from excaliburpress.co.uk 

Renewable Energy Targets Must Be A Priority Ahead Of 2030 Says Belfast Renewable Firm

Following the UK Government’s recent decision to delay environmental targets to 2050 and the ongoing political impasse in Northern Ireland renewables experts Everun are calling for 2030 goals to be a priority.

The company is urging the Executive to not only return to work but to prioritise the country’s sustainable goals on their return.

Sales and business development director at Everun, Ross Moffett, said the absence of a sitting government in Northern Ireland means “there’s a looming threat that our progress towards sustainable solutions might stall even further”.

He added: “As we grapple with climate change, the need for sustainable solutions has never been more pressing. In Northern Ireland, we find ourselves at a pivotal point. The absence of a sitting government and the UK’s shifting environmental policies pose significant challenges to our progress in renewable energy.

Mr Moffett described the challenge Northern Ireland faces as dire: “At Everun we recognise the broader implications of our work, which encompasses everything from the development and management of wind farms and solar energy projects to providing EV charging and smart motor solutions to our clients. This commitment underpins our drive towards a greener, more resilient Northern Ireland.

“Going forward towards 2030 we must ensure there is equitable access to renewable energy solutions that transcends the scope of individual sectors and squarely places the onus on collaborative governance.”

The lack of governmental action since February 2022, following the dissolution of The Assembly due to the Northern Ireland Protocol, has been a significant barrier. 

“This political standstill is hampering our ability to develop and implement effective policies that support renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure,” Mr Moffett added.

Despite these obstacles, Moffett pointed out that businesses in Northern Ireland are forging ahead with investments in renewable technologies. 

“These proactive steps are essential. We cannot let complacency set in. The cost of inaction is far greater than the investment in sustainable solutions,” he said.

Mr Moffett also explained that Everun is committed to aiding the transition, exploring innovative solutions with their clients to create self-sufficient, sustainable ecosystems.

However, he noted these efforts are often slowed by bureaucratic processes and a lack of government support.

He said: “It’s time for a collaborative effort. We need policies that encourage the development and adoption of renewable energy sources.

“Incentive schemes should be tailored to support not just domestic users but also the commercial and industrial sectors, which are crucial drivers of our economy. 

“Additionally, there’s a need for an energy decarbonisation scheme that would encourage new generations of solar farms, wind turbines, and large battery storage.

“As we stand at this critical juncture, our message is clear: we must act now to ensure a sustainable future. The time for decisive action and unwavering commitment to our 2030 climate goals is now.

“As Northern Ireland stands at this critical juncture, the message is clear: we cannot afford to delay our progress towards the 2030 climate goals. We must act now to ensure a sustainable future, not just for our generation but for those to come. The time for decisive action and unwavering commitment is now.”