Growing up in Rathcoole – exhibition highlights success stories

Tuesday November 13th 2007

Footballer Jimmy Nicholl grew up in Rathcoole.The achievements of people who grew up in and around the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey have been documented in a new Hard Gospel exhibition.

The Our Kind of People exhibition opens on November 29 and will run for four days in Rathcoole Youth Centre.

For many years Rathcoole, on the outskirts of North Belfast, has endured a bad press. Loyalist paramilitaries dominated the estate, their feuding and violence blighting the lives of local residents.

The Hard Gospel project aims to show, and celebrate, another side to life in Rathcoole – the success stories of people born and brought up in the area. 

Sports commentator Alan Green is another native of Rathcoole whose story is featured in the exhibition.St Comgall’s Parish in Rathcoole has worked with Hard Gospel on the exhibition, which features 85 individuals who live in the Rathcoole community or who attended one of the local schools. Some still live in Northern Ireland while others have forged successful careers in countries around the world.

“At a time like this, when people are trying to build a new future for Northern Ireland, it is important that the churches find a role in bringing hope to people in areas like Rathcoole,” says Stephen Dallas, the Hard Gospel Project’s Northern Ireland officer.

The individuals featured include the former Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer Jimmy Nicholl, the BBC sports commentator Alan Green, the playwright Gary Mitchell, and George McKim, a former loyalist paramilitary who’s now senior pastor of the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle.

“Rathcoole has suffered from high unemployment and poor take-up of training and third-level education for a long time.  St Comgall’s, along with other churches in the area, is trying to highlight the difference that education and training has made in the lives of the people included in the exhibition,” said Stephen. “We hope to inspire others to have a bigger vision of what is possible for them.”

The exhibition will be officially opened by the North Belfast MP and DUP MLA Nigel Dodds at 12.30pm on Monday November 26.

The Hard Gospel Project was founded by the Church of Ireland to help counter sectarianism and racism, and to find fresh ways of developing a shared future in the Ireland of the 21st century.

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