Wexford welcome for Palestinian youths
Children from the Al-Helal football club in the besieged Gaza strip enjoyed a fun day in Wexford courtesy of Wexford Youths soccer club, the National Heritage Park and the Wexford Council of Trades Unions.
The group of 14 young footballers were brought to Ireland by Gaza Action Ireland with the help of former Ireland manager Brian Kerr and former rugby international Trevor Hogan - Hogan and Lawlor had visited the Al-Helal club house in 2013 after it was damaged by Israeli bombing in 2012 and again in 2014.
The 10-day visit was organised to give the boys aged 10 to 14 a 'sporting chance' away from the conflict zone in which they live, to meet other children and tell their stories.
'The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, living as they do under seige, is extremely difficult,' said Zoe Lawlor.
'The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment, places to play and restrictions on their movement. As well as giving the kids a much needed break from stress and conflict, it was a great opportunity for the people of Ireland to participate and support them.'
The young visitors, accompanied by three adults spent a few days in Dublin and Tipperary before arriving in Wexford where they were officially welcomed to town by the Mayor, Frank Staples at a reception in the Siptu offices in Coolcotts, hosted by the Wexford Council of Trades Unions.
Council secretary Michael Wall commented that children are the worst-affected victims of war and conflict and said it was a great pleasure to offer the group of young footballers hospitality in Wexford.
The visitors made their way to Wexford Youths soccer club where they received a warm welcome and were given use of a pitch to play a five-a-side game between themselves. The players were presented with jerseys and gift packs by the club.
In the afternoon, they were taken to the Irish National Heritage Park for lunch and a complimentary tour of the attractions before returning to Tipperary and later travelling to County Galway, Nenagh and Limerick.
The trip was delayed by three weeks due to red tape in Israel with one child and four adults who were scheduled to travel, being refused permission to leave.
'We only got word on Friday that they were finally coming,' said Michael Wall. 'It was great to finally welcome them here. They were a lovely bunch of kids.'